Six of One 4/8/2023
Best Foods Supermarket and five other recommendations
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Six of One is a column dedicated to London restaurant recommendations. In each newsletter, we send out a tip from six writers for six different restaurants, bakeries, cafes or takeaways that deserve to be better known.
You can find previous Six of Ones below:
Today’s recommendations are from Niranjana Ramesh, Nick Bramham, Hester van Hensbergen, A.L. Noonan, Joel Hart and Branca Lessa de Sá
1. Best Foods Supermarket
I know the masala bun well. It has been a friend when I’ve tried to find proper food on Forest Road. It sits amid places with plenty of craft beer but too often not quite the same craft when it comes to the food. It has accompanied me home on train rides, or on a walk through the wetlands, as I’ve torn through the soft, slightly sweet and fluffy bread to get at the spicy filling of fish mashed with potatoes, onions, chillies and curry leaves.
The masala bun is part of a repertoire of snacks known as “short eats” in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It is in this category of foods that the deli counter in the innocuously but entirely accurately named Best Foods Supermarket, in Walthamstow, excels. It is a Sri Lankan Tamil grocers, very well stocked with samba and Ponni rice in 10 kg sacks, entire shelves full of dried and preserved fish or raw jackfruit. Its deli counter is serviced by Malar Spice of Wembley, the woman behind the counter, Jeya Gowri, tells me, pointing to the board behind her. I hadn’t paid attention to this before, drawn as I am usually to the trays heaving with deeply savoury brinjal, cooling greens or beans in buttermilk, mouth-puckeringly tart kulambu with moringa or fish and tender chicken pongal.
My usual order is fish in buns with mutton varuval, dry fried to a crisp with chillies and curry leaves; the fish adds an extra savoury kick to the sweet-ish buns and the mutton flaking nearly to a floss when bitten into. But, there is a better kept secret here: the steamed foods. The ever under-appreciated idli served with chilli coconut chutney and thick sambar; stacks of idiyappam to be dipped in coconut milk sodhi; and the puttu which, in my opinion, is paired best with the spiciest curry you can pack away. And kothu versions of all the above, scrambled with spicy onions and dried fish. If you’re lucky, there might also be some sweet appams for dessert. Niranjana Ramesh
156-158 Forest Rd, E17 6JQ