Outside of jumping on an 11-hour flight to Peshawar, there are few better options in London than Taste of Pakistan. Sandwiched between a garage and a car rental shop near Heathrow, this Pashtun spot wears its excellence humbly. The room is plain, the Hounslow location suburban, but once inside, feels like it’s spread across a row of houses. It’s almost always chocka which speaks volumes to how good the food is. Groups pile into the white-lit dining room, 4x4s pull up into its drive, and Naseer—proprietor and all-round guv’nor—patrols the room like a smiling bouncer who’s ready to offer, or weaponise, a chapli kebab at a moment’s notice.
Just like the airport terminals nearby, Taste Of Pakistan is constantly heaving. Hoping to swing by for an impromptu charsi karahi is a fool’s game. On any given night this restaurant is alive with honking cars out front while friends and families rip at enormous naans and mop up velvet-smooth sauces inside. Groups without bookings are laughed away in person or, unforgivingly, online. Team TOP takes their reputation as seriously as they do their food. Both are outstanding.
Northwest Pakistani food takes influence from nearby Afghanistan and the signature ghee-less, blanket-sized naans hang from hooks on every table like taunting sirens for passers-by. In fact, the food and the restaurant share many of the same characteristics. The two-sided dining room bubbles just like the karahis being cooked over flames and another member of your group is always welcome in the same way an extra round of glistening Peshawari chapli kebabs is necessary.
Of course, coming here en masse is the move. For ladles and ladles of sweet kabli pilau and sizzling mix grill platters. That said, a solo midweek lunchtime will guarantee you a table and, to be honest, Taste of Pakistan is a restaurant you should always be leaving with extra baggage.
Peshawari Chapali Kebab
An instant death row dish contender, this chapli kebab is something we dream about very often. Frisbee-shaped with crispy edges from deep-frying, this juicy beef patty has flecks of chilli green and red running throughout, alongside aromatic hits of cumin and coriander seeds. Your first should be considered a snack and the second, savoured.
Charsi Karahi Chicken
The glistening, shimmering nature of this karahi sauce is mesmerising. So much so that, once you taste it, you may quickly think about glugging it first thing in the morning. The tomato-based curry is gentle, with a thirst-quenching masala sauce that clings to tender chicken legs and drumsticks like a gravy coat. Take some of this home and eat it the next day, it tastes even better.
There is a spoon for the karahi and a shovel for the kabli pilau, and never the two shall meet. Naseer gave us this tip as we excavated and pulled away the slow-cooked lamb from this gorgeous, raisin and sweet carrot-topped plate of rice. It’s an aromatic, moreish pile of food that rightly deserves shovelling.
Any bread enthusiast may well think they’ve ascended to heaven at Taste Of Pakistan. The peshwari naans—giant, billowing canvases that are begging to be painted with oils and sauces—stand tall on every table. Essential, delicious bread.