London’s Best Grab And Go MealsFrom bubbling naan wraps and smoking jerk chicken fresh from the grill, to Taiwanese fried chicken, and more.
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.
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 citrusy 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. Get extra beef if you’re hungry—just be prepared for some totally worth it, saucy stains.
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 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. There’s one with halloumi as well, for people who just REALLY LOVE halloumi. 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.
There are tasty things between bread. And then there’s Sam Sandwiches. This Algerian street food spot inside Shepherd’s Bush Market makes some of the best sandwiches around. There’s 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, 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 get the one with egg. One of these hefty puffs from the Singaporean spot in Covent Garden is a filling lunch. If you get tempted by the beef rendang flavour as well and go for two, you won’t be hungry for a good six hours.
If you live around N4, then your naan intake should be off the chain thanks to this tiny 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—a smoking, four steel drum setup that would give the cast of Chicken Run the heebie-jeebies—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 Peckham 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, you’ll soon realise that this suya is going to 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 stuck in for good measure. Given that it’s open 24 hours, if you haven’t wiped mustard-induced tears from your eyes in the early hours of the morning then you should get about doing that a.s.a.p. 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 also 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—you just might not necessarily know it. 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 something like midday to 3pm, Monday to Friday—or worse, they’ve run out of baguettes. If you clock forlorn-looking folks as you’re walking up then it’s not a good sign, 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.
Papo’s is where to come when you’re looking for slabs of oak-smoked salmon with schmear, capers, onion, and tomato. The NYC-style takeaway bagel shop wouldn’t look out of place in Greenpoint, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Papo’s may well be making the best bagels in London. It’s out of sight down the end of an alley next to The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston, but very much in mind given their fantastically crisp crusted, chunky, doughy bagels. If you’re after something that’s equal parts cheesy and warming, the tuna melt is essential.
The alley next to The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston isn’t somewhere that’s typically frequented in daylight hours (or sober). But All Kaps Pizza—the Sunday-only, pie pop-up at Papo’s Bagels—makes this small strip of concrete next to the bins, the place to be on a weekend afternoon. It’s takeaway-only, and you could take a New York-style, 16-incher home in a box, but it’s fun to stick around. Lean against the wall holding a paper plate with a floppy, spicy pepperoni slice, or rectangle of focaccia-like tomato pie. Eat, order another, repeat.
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. This is east London’s most legit jerk chicken. 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. The whole setup is out of a shipping container, but there are plenty of places to sit in the square and shops to grab a drink.
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 will be 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. Prices are higher than your average chicken spot, but it’s worth it.
On a sunny day you want to be up bright and early for two reasons. The first is carpe diem and all that stuff. The second is because 40 Maltby Street makes sandwiches that are absolute units. These lunchtime-only big boys are strictly for takeaway and they fly off the Bermondsey wine bar and restaurant’s proverbial shelves, whether filled with pumpkin fritters and roasted tomatoes, or homemade fish fingers and pickled cucumbers. You’re also a 10-minute wander from the Thames, so there are nice seating spots aplenty.