A (Brief) History Of London’s Best Snacks
Chips that look like crisps, £1 freshly-made naans, gooey manakeesh, hot wings, and lots more.
The word snack comes from 17th century Middle Dutch vocabulary. To ‘snacken’ is to bite and, it’s safe to say, that we enjoy a little snacken more often than not. But this big and rumble-inducing snack guide isn’t that kind of history lesson. It’s a guide that trawls through our memories of excellent snacks past. From panic-bought Westfield boreks, to pavement-scoffed chips, to everything portable and packed with flavour in between.
photo credit: John Carey
Holborn Dining Room
Hand-raised pork pie - £8
A friend of ours used to regularly walk around with a pork pie in his pocket to pause, snack on, and rewrap throughout the day. You can’t do that with this one from the Pie Room at HBD’s takeaway hatch for two reasons. 1) Because it tastes so good, and 2) because nobody wants a pocket full of juicy gravy.
Cheese and garlic naan - £1
Ararat Bread is a teeny-tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery on Ridley Road that makes brilliantly tasty and inexpensive flatbreads. Naans are hand-slapped in front of you, put under a rotating oven to bubble and sizzle, before being placed wrapped, hot, and crisp into your hand. Cheese and garlic is a quid, or keema and an egg a couple more.
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Manakeesh - £3
If you’ve ever had manakeesh, then you’ll understand how important it is that this Lebanese bakery serves them until 10pm. And Yasmina’s manakeesh, is some of the best in London. You can head there at 1pm on a Sunday for a platter of minced meat and cheese (or spinach and cheese) manakeesh and it’ll be just as good as when you come at 7pm on a Wednesday.
Pork yeeros - £5
Souvlakiland is a tiny spot down the end of Homerton High Street serving some of the best gyros in the city. They’re about a fiver each, meaning you can eat like a god or goddess here for a few pounds more than that. Get some halloumi with your pork yeeros, or - and this is our move - some extra pitta with their homemade tzatziki.
Roti Joupa is permanently closed
Hot doubles - £2
Hot doubles are the must-order thing at Roti Joupa - in either the Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush, or Finsbury Park branches of the Trinidadian spot - and the best use of that big £2 coin in your pocket. The baras are satisfyingly chewy, the channa is a cumin-rich, gently spiced sensation, topped with hot sauce, and some welcome cucumber and onion shreds on top. Order one for now, and take one away for later.
Wagashi custard dorayaki pancake - £1.89
One for all our sweet treat fans who love pancakes but hate frying pans. This Japanese scotch pancake situation is packed full of a creamy vanilla custard filling with extra fluff-factor and zero faff. We like to eat this traditional Japanese treat whilst also sipping our eighth coffee of the day, but that’s just personal preference.
Panuozzo - £5
During the day, at both of Theo’s Camberwell and Elephant & Castle locations, there are a handful of wood fire panuozzo (pizza dough sandwiches) on that are, at a fiver, one of London’s best value lunches. Or snacks. The sausage and friarielli (a crunchy and bitter Italian green) one is excellent, and their take on a tuna melt is a go-to.
Hot wings - £3
In the pyramid of London’s best snacks - best being defined by availability, mass enjoyment, and regularity of craving - fried chicken is surely on top. It’s one of the city’s foundations and everyone has their favourite shop. Eden’s hot wings have always been a go-to. Crisp and peppery, yet eminently suckable, there aren’t many better ways to spend a few quid.
Char siu bun - £2
If you’re wandering through Chinatown without swinging by Chinatown Bakery for a soft, sweet and oh-so-doughy char siu pork bun, then you need to switch that up immediately. There are plenty of things on offer here - from spring onion rolls to pandan rolls as light as clouds - but it’s the pork bun that always finds its way into our hands.
The Best Broasted
Broasted chips - £4
When we think of the chipped potatoes from this Syrian spot in Willesden Green, we find ourselves getting tangled up in all kinds of riddles. What is a chip? When does a potato become one? If a crisp has soft pillow of potato inside it, is it still a crisp? Whatever the answers, one thing for sure is that the crispy chips (or are they chippy crisps?) at The Best Broasted are amazing.
Coconut chin chin - £1.20
Uncle John’s is one of London’s best bakeries and their classic Ghanaian snacks are not only wildly tasty but super affordable. But one thing you should know is that it’s physically impossible to stop eating Uncle John’s coconut chin chin. If you think we’re joking, you should see how many bags of this sweet, crunchy snack we go through every single day.
Tater tots - £5
Chips, crisps, and tater tots all have at least three things in common. They’re potatoe-y, they work well in a game of chubby bunny, and they have high snacking potential. The tater tot, which is less common in London than we’d like, is a perfect snack. And the ones at this Philly-inspired spot in Fitzrovia come covered in cheese wiz sauce.
Cheese, garlic and za’atar naan - £2.50
N4’s savvier locals have clocked that three plain naans for a quid from Baban’s, slapped into the tandoor and still warm when they’re wrapped, will transform a good home-cooked curry night into an excellent one. Alternatively, if like us, you’re one of the less savvy types who regularly subject themselves to watching Arsenal play down the road, a cheesy naan from Baban’s will cheer you right up.
Spring onion pancake - £5
Dumpling Shack’s pancake is a fantastic and flaky circle of textures and onion that, looks-wise, resembles something that’s been formed and fried to exacting standards before, at the very last minute, being viciously battered with the ugly stick. It marries your softest and flakiest sweet pastry memories into something deliciously savoury that should absolutely be dunked in DS’s chilli oil.
Scotch egg - £6
Despite sounding like a period drama off BBC Scotland, Scotchtail is actually the must-visit scotch egg stall in Borough Market. You can either have your egg plain with a bit of dressed salad, with little to distract you from the gooey orange yolk and the excellently herby and crispy pork filling. Or you can get all this with sweet potato fries as well.
Salt & pepper chips - £4.80
Salt and pepper chips are a gastronomic gift from the Chinese-Scouse community that increase your enjoyment of life exponentially. They’re chips, deep-fried, then stir-fried and soaked with chilli oil. These ones, from Lucky Dog, feature dried Sichuan chillies, white onion, pepper, and shredded carrot. They’re best enjoyed on a Brick Lane doorstep, but just as good inhaled whilst walking.
Stem ginger cake - £3
When weekday office lunches were a regular thing, there was nothing more regular than a slice/wedge of Quality Wines’ ginger cake. Thinking about this cake makes our heart soft and our eyes well up. Plastered in treacle, with enormous chunks of candied ginger studded throughout, it’s something we’d happily clog our body with forever.
Bacon and maple pastry - £4.20
If you’re not sure whether you want a savoury snack or a sweet one, then let us gently prod you in the direction of Pophams. If you like pineapple on pizza, or salt and sweet popcorn, then you’ll like their bacon and maple pastry. In fact, even if you don’t like either, you’ll probably still like this sweet, salty, and flakey delight.
Spinach and sumac herb fatayer - £2.10
The cute little triangles of pastry from this Lebanese spot in Shepherd’s Bush are the best snack you can get if you want to avoid spillages on the go. The filling, spinach in sumac and other herbs, is zesty, salty, and packed into a pyramid shaped dough. They’re addictive, and can be eaten in two bites, so you’re best off getting a couple.
Popcorn chicken - £6
Good Friend is a little shop in Soho that will satisfy all of your crispy and cheap 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.
Bellota iberico ham slices - £12.45
“Whatcha eating?” Your intrigued flatmate says sniffing the air with come-hither eyes. “Oh this? Just a little iberico bellota.” Classic tapas spot Brindisa’s hand-carved, cured slices fall under our favourite genre of snacks, Things We Grab From The Fridge and Pick at One-Handed for Two Glorious Hours. 12 slices, 12 reasons to stop working and have another little snack break.
The Hội-An Special - £7.50
The submarine-sized bánh mì from Bánh Mì Hội-An in Hackney Central is a snack to share. It features three different types of pork (char siu, belly, and Vietnamese caramel hunks), paté, omelette, pickled carrots and cucumber, coriander, and some sriracha for good measure.
Beit El Zaytoun
Lamb and cheese mana’esh - £4.50
Some food is so good that you crave it whilst you’re asleep. You know what we’re talking about. You wake up planning and calculating your route. All so you can get your fix. The lamb and cheese mana’esh at this Lebanese restaurant in Acton are just that good. They’re perfect for a lazy day. Doughy, meaty, cheesy.
New York cookies - £4
Crumbs & Doilies are that rare kind of cookie that really deserve a better title than just ‘cookie’. XXL, with a melted centre, and soft enough that they break off without risking your molars, they are 10/10. Oh, and heat them up in the oven for peak cosiness.
Peppers and Spice
Macaroni pie - £2.50
We’ve had many a patty and a lot of jerk from this Caribbean takeaway spot in Dalston, but their macaroni pie - a gooey, cheesy brick that’s crisp on top with just the right amount of stodge - is never not welcome in our life. Ask for a pot of fruity and fiery jerk sauce on the side to pour over.
Mixed pierogies - £6
Autograf’s assorted traditional pierogies, are basically slippers for the soul in XL dumpling form. Topped with caramelised onion, the chicken is our personal favourite, but the potato and cottage cheese deserve a special shout out too. They’re super comforting and an excellent way to spend six quid.”
Xinjiang lamb skewers - £4
One of London’s most loved Xinjiang restaurants, Silk Road’s menu may not be immediately snackable, but to the lateral and lamb thinkers, it is. Their Xinjiang lamb skewers, rubbed with cumin and charred all over, are probably the thing to order. And they’re irresistable at a pound a pop.
The Dusty Knuckle Bakery
Morning bun - £2.50
Everything on The Dusty Knuckle’s menu could probably be classed (contentiously) as a snack. Well, maybe not one of their doorstop sandwiches. But their pastries certainly. Of them all it’s the morning bun that’s a constant sell-out. Swirled and dusted with sugar, golden and crispy on the outside but soft and doughy in the centre, it’s part cinnamon roll and fully delicious.
La Chingada Mexican Food
Mollettes - £5
Two chunky and soft bits of white bread topped with refried beans, melted cheese, and pico de gallo. They’re small, they’re a bit stodgy, and they’re the kind of thing we want to eat horizontal for the rest of our life. If you’re in Surrey Quays, then this is the place to snack.
Lahmacun - £3
This family-run spot makes east London’s finest lahmacun, amongst other things. Bread, as it should always be, is key here. It’s rolled out fresh in front of you, verging on transparently thin, before being baked to a crispy but perfectly chewy consistency. Add spicy mince of a lahmacun to the craters of this warm flatbread (plus a mix of deliciously tart, fresh salads) and you have something close to perfection.
Gelato - £3
Run by the same team as Bocca Di Lupo, Gelupo makes the best gelato in London. The flavours change regularly - the sour cherry stracciatella or blood orange sorbet are amazing if they’re on, and even the classics like pistachio and chocolate are a cut above anywhere else.
Noodle & Beer
Lang-Ya Tu Dou - £4.50
Put it this way, outside of Mr. Potato Head solving the climate crisis, you won’t find a more impressive spud in London than these crinkle cut fried potatoes. Part crunchy, part soggy, but always charged with Sichuan pepper chilli oil, these are not chips off of the old block.
Spinach borek - £3.50
This kiosk in Westfield has everything from olives to baklava, but what you should come here for is the pastries. Namely, the rose-shaped spinach borek. It’s simply spinach and cheese in thin, flaky layers of pastry, and it’s one of the best snacks you can get inside the shopping centre.
Falafel & Shawarma
Falafel wrap - £3.50
Every area in London needs a place that sells freshly made, £3.50 wraps, filled with falafel, fresh salads, and the undying love of their makers. Camberwell has exactly that in Falafel and Shawarma. If you’re not after a wrap or shawarma, you can upgrade to the mezze plate for a quid more and either be on your merry way or grab a seat there.
Chips - £1.75
Dionysus’ chips make every other interpretation of ‘hand cut’ look and taste like they’ve been made by a pug using a slotted spoon. These babies, these are angular. They’re Tron chips. Sharp and crispy on the ends, but straight, fluffy and, remarkably, full of potato-tasting potato down the middle. A special mention goes to their unapologetically tingly aioli as well.
Cod fritters - £7.75
The Brixton Caribbean spot describes their signature cod fritters as ‘a high five from Jesus’. And you know what, we’re not going to disagree. Kind of like scampi sorted out it’s shit and hit the steroids, these fried fritters are seasoned to perfection and come with a little tub of ginger and lime aioli that - true story - we once licked clean in public and overheard a stranger say “that’s unattractive”. Whatever, they’re fantastic.
Carbonara swirl - £4-ish?
This carbonara pastry is the nuts. For a start, it’s so flaky and so buttery. You could happily enjoy the pastry on its own. Could. Instead, enjoy it with a quite beautiful confit egg yolk, a handful of grated parmesan, and little chunky bits of pancetta hidden inside the pastry.
Bilog - £6.50
If you think that that ice cream-stuffed pastries need a time and a place, then you’re wrong. A rainy Sunday was the setting the first time we tried a bilog (a hot milk bun filled with ice-cream) from Mamasons - a Filipino dessert shop in Chinatown - and it was absolutely perfect. We went for Milo (yes, the chocolate powder) but there are plenty of flavours, including ube, and queso.
Salt beef beigel - £5.90
Celebrities come in all shapes and sizes. Even round, holey, and filled with hot salt beef plus a smear of watered-down English mustard. And that’s what Beigel Bake’s salt beef beigel is: a celebrity which you can always find at London’s most famous beigel shop - it’s been boiling and baking on Brick Lane since 1974.
Spinach and cheese man’oushe - £3
This little spot on Uxbridge Road has been specialising in manakeesh for over a decade, and it shows. They’ve got all the classics like zaatar and labneh, and halloumi, as well as some Z&Z specialties like basterma with cheese, and cheese and honey. You can’t go wrong with a classic lahm beajin or spinach, and we like to ask for some cheese on them, because... well... melted cheese.
The Ginger Pig
Pork and stilton sausage roll - £4
London isn’t lacking in the sausage roll department, nor even gourmet sausage roll department, but The Ginger Pig’s stilton-laced unit stands above the rest flavour-wise. The pork is juicy, its flavour very much present, while the stilton acts as a deliciously pungent seasoning. Ketchup, for us, is non-negotiable.
Lahore Kebab House
Lamb chops - £9.75
If you haven’t yet opened up your mind to the idea of lamb chops as a snack then let us help you. Think of us like Morpheus from The Matrix but offering chops instead of coloured pills. Lahore’s chops are famous and this big Pakistani grill is an institution for groups and anyone after a good value meal or snack.
Curry cheese bao - £5
This is, for all intents and purposes, a molten deep-fried cheese sandwich smothered in curry sauce topped with some fermented chilli. It is, for all intents and purposes, fantastic. A must order if you’re around Borough Market.
Ochi Caribbean Takeaway
Meat patty - £3
This spot on Uxbridge Road is apparently RiRi’s go-to Caribbean spot in Shepherd’s Bush. Our favourite of the patties is the meat. It’s peppery, warming, and - surprise, surprise - meaty, but the chicken is also a great choice, and a little lighter. You’ll always find a queue of at least two people before you, but the wait is usually quick, and the food is definitely worth it.
Bread and hummus - £5.50
You name the bread, we eat it. If you’re anything like this, then you’ll want to know that FM Mangal, a Turkish grill spot on Church Street, has got some seriously good (flat)bread. It’s warmed over the grill and covered in a secret mixture of what we can only describe as smoke, fat, and spice. With a dip on the side, you don’t need anything else.
Old Chang Kee
Curry puffs - £6
It’s two puffs for £6 at Old Chang Kee in Covent Garden. Fillings include curried chicken, potato, and egg. Or, a Singapore chilli crab if you’re feeling adventurous.
Empanadas - £6.60
We’re a nation of pastry lovers, so stopping by Porteña for a few empanadas is essential when you’re in Borough Market. This Argentinian street food spot doesn’t have a vegan sausage-based menu item, but as well as the three go-to meat numbers: beef, chicken, or chorizo, there are two vegetarian options: provolone and caramelised onion, and spinach and ricotta.
Chicken tenders - £4.95
Once you’re walking down the street eating our favourite chicken tenders as a snack, you’re winning in our books. These ones from Chik’n are consistently fried to perfection, crispy on the outside, somehow still tender on the inside, and if you have the patience to dip on the go, the hot sauce is delicious.