LDNGuide

London’s Best Grab & Go Meals

From bubbling naan wraps and smoking jerk chicken fresh from the grill, to Taiwanese fried chicken, and more.
London’s Best Grab & Go Meals image

Everyone knows that London is addicted to the meal deal. We swoop in for our selections like hangry seagulls and eat them anywhere you would ordinarily look at and think ‘I’d hate to eat there’. A BLT on an escalator? Sure. Six pieces of sushi under a doorway while it pisses down? Oui chef. London has all manner of excellent food that doesn’t come with a table or a chair, nor a knife or a fork. And, in actual fact, lots of London’s best food has none of those not-always-necessary niceties—from bubbling naan wraps and smoking jerk chicken fresh from the grill, to Taiwanese fried chicken, and more.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Bakery/Cafe

Primrose Hill

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-InsCelebrity SightingsTakeawayLiterally EveryoneBreakfast
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It’s Bagels have a simple name and our verdict is just as straightforward—these are some of the best bagels in London. Come on the weekend and you’ll be joining a queue that snakes across the road. On weekdays you won’t have to wait and the small tables might be free, but we still prefer to take our bagel to Primrose Hill when the weather's nice. It’s a two-minute stroll away and eating a top-tier, lox-stuffed wheel of carbs while looking over London's skyline, just makes sense.

Yes, this New Orleans-inspired spot in Kingston is a whole restaurant, but when the weather’s nice, grabbing one of the po’ boys (a brioche sub filled with crispy fried shrimp, salad, pickles, and their homemade sauces) and heading by the river is an excellent lunch situation. They serve all their food in takeaway boxes anyway.

This tiny Fujianese takeaway spot in Chinatown is all about plump handheld fritters. They lay golden and tanned in the window of this cupboard-sized space and there’s a choice of chicken, pork, and oyster. Take it to go straight from the tray, or ask for another dunk in the fryer if you like your snacks steaming hot and crispy. Of the three, the oyster cake reigns supreme. Salty and packed with a handful of bean sprouts, cabbage, seaweed, and onion—this is a sensational snack for under a fiver.

Chinese Tapas House—a tiny takeaway spot in Chinatown making jianbing—is a rare example of street food done right in London. The savoury crêpe-like dishes start at around £4 but when you load them with marinated pork belly and enoki mushrooms, it’s more like a tenner. It’s worth it though. Spicy, meaty, crunchy, messy—it's a satisfying lunch, especially when standing outside, watching people in the Angus Steakhouse opposite.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:Takeaway

Trini spot Chaconia is low on decorative fuss, but big on being looked after by its matriarch and chef so expect huge bundles of soft, stuffed roti and doorstop slices of macaroni pie. Everything is takeaway or delivery only but that doesn’t stop the richly spiced curry goat from regularly selling out quickly—it’s a cut above and people know it. We think it’s worth collecting from the Deptford kitchen for the freshest roti and a chat with Chaconia’s friendly owner.

If there was a guide to London’s messiest takeaway meals, Hola Guacamole’s generously filled beef burrito would be top of the list. This Mexican food truck is parked up in Paddington’s Merchant Square most weekdays and the burrito is a two-hander, dripping with citrussy pico de gallo, and stuffed with juicy dark beef, hearty black beans, and rice. The sour cream has a nice tang to it, the guacamole is creamy, and the salsa is refreshing.

Mr Falafel does one of the best falafel wraps in the city: the falafel itself is perfect, and each wrap is packed with creamy hummus and pickled vegetables. The quality at this Shepherd’s Bush spot is very consistent—it’s still as good today as it was 10 years ago when we first tried it. Go for the classic falafel wrap, or get a deluxe version with cauliflower and crispy potatoes if you’re feeling loaded. It’s a simple caff setup so taking it to go is the best option.

We can’t believe there was a time when we didn’t know about the baja fish taco at this Mexican kitchen in Fulham. The fried butter fish fillet in a soft corn tortilla has the perfect ratio of comfort to crunch. It's topped with tangy coleslaw and comes with generous pots of zesty guacamole (our favourite), hot habanero, and chipotle sauce on the side. This is one of the best tacos in London. There are only a couple of benches out front so you kind of have no choice but to grab it and go. But you still won’t manage to resist taking a bite before reaching the nearest bus stop.

This Algerian street food spot inside Shepherd’s Bush Market has a simple menu with five meats to choose from, including lamb’s liver, merguez, marinated chicken, and a fish fillet. Our favourites are the chicken and the minced meat. Your meat of choice is fried to order, harissa and mayonnaise is brushed onto the bread, and each sandwich is topped off with chips, a fried egg, and salad. Once you try one excellent sandwich, you’ll be back to taste everything on the menu.

A curry isn’t the most ideal thing to eat on the go. Trust us, we’ve given it a good try. But the chicken curry puff from Old Chang Kee has the wholesome, comforting quality of a curry, with the practicality of a sandwich. Flaky, buttery pastry is packed full of potato, curried chicken, and egg—you should definitely get the one with egg. Just one of these hefty puffs from this Singaporean spot in Covent Garden is a filling lunch.

If you live around N4, then your naan intake should be off the chain thanks to this tiny Kurdish shop on Blackstock Road. Its naans would elevate the most bang average of weeknight curries into something quite delicious. We still prefer them tandoor-fresh though. Slapped in, shifted around, and slid out. Piping hot, exhaling bubbling heat, sprinkled with za’atar, and wrapped with kubba and salad, or whatever else takes your fancy.

The jerk chicken legs and pork belly that come straight from the Tasty Jerk rig behind the counter are superb. Charred to perfection and blackened on the outside but glistening within, everything at this Crystal Palace spot is best paired with their unforgiving homemade scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Plantain and gravy-soaked rice and peas are also welcome as beads of sweat form. Eat it in the car, on the street, wherever.

This melt-in-your-mouth Nigerian barbecue spot in Brixton isn’t somewhere you’re going to spend a particularly long time. Save for a few counters to lean on, it’s predominantly takeaway-only. But once you find a bench, bus stop, or whatever else to dine from, this suya will live long in the memory. Alhaji’s yaji (a homemade spice mix of chilli, peanut, ginger, and garlic) will do the tango with your taste buds and the tenderly grilled meat, in particular the tozo, is second to none.

Brick Lane’s institution needs no introduction and nor do its golden beigels. The salt beef is the obvious choice—an enormous hunk smeared with watered-down English mustard and sliced gherkin. Given that it’s open 24 hours, expect to wipe mustard-induced tears from your eyes in the early hours of the morning at some point. The less masochistic are partial to a smoked salmon cream cheese, doused in bottled lemon juice and topped with dusty pepper.

For those of a certain generation, Dionysus was once a legendary West End takeaway spot in the ‘70s, but now it’s an everyday go-to in Southgate. The Greek kebab shop takes everything it makes very seriously. The pittas are generously filled and the perfectly charcoal-cooked souvlaki is an always-satisfying lunch or dinner. The chips made daily here—hand-cut with more angles than a catwalk at Paris Fashion Week—are quite simply some of the best in London.

You’ll find Ararat’s bread all over London. In little corner shops, local supermarkets, and maybe even in your mouth at a restaurant. The small Pakistani bakery on Ridley Road throws hundreds of flatbreads on a daily basis and we like them straight from the source. Out of the oven, bubbled and chewy, topped with a load of garlic and cheese or, even better, a spiced meat mixture. The fact you can pick them up for under a fiver, wrapped and ready to launch into, is an enormous bonus.

This Hackney Central favourite can be a cruel and frustrating mistress. Lose track of time and the bánh mì spot is more than likely closed—opening times are 11:30am to 3pm, Monday to Friday (and an hour less on Saturday)—or worse, they’ve run out of baguettes. But that’s also part of this place’s charm. The Hoi-An Special is our go-to, featuring char siu, pork belly, and Vietnamese caramel hunks, and pâté. If fried fish is on, get that too.

The popular Taiwanese chicken spot in Chinatown lives to serve London’s crispy chicken needs. We like the popcorn best, or you can get a big old flattened, crispy breast if you’re really hungry. After that, the only decision to make is which of the 11 seasonings you should shake over your chicken. Salt, pepper, cheese, seaweed or—as regulars will err towards—chilli, and plum. Trust us, it works.

Ewarts is in the middle of Gillett Square in Dalston, where the blasting of reggae and the cracking of tinnies are the perma-soundtrack and Ewart’s smoking drum an always deliciously welcoming smell. It’s rubbed dry, cooked fresh, and has that smokiness and crisp char that can’t be replicated. You’ll want the jerk chicken, wings, and the pork belly chunks for sure. When the fat’s rendered perfectly, those chunks are the business.

There are so many chicken shops in Tottenham but there is only one Chick King. In the shadow of the Spurs stadium, this family-run restaurant has been open for over 40 years. Three things are guaranteed here. There will be a queue, the no-nonsense owner will give you a big grin if you give him one first, and that crispy chicken skin is second to none. Whether you opt for a classic three pieces and chips combo or the mayo-loaded chicken sandwich, it’s some of London’s best fried chicken.

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Doorstop sandwiches to aubergine sabichs, and everything in between. In between bread, that is.

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