Yasmin Khan

Television presenter, writer and media commentator Yasmin Khan wants to change perceptions of the Middle East. Her strategy? Use food as a vehicle to celebrate the things that connect us as humans. Her work sits at the intersection of food, travel and politics, as demonstrated by her two critically acclaimed cookbooks, The Saffron Tales and Zaitoun. She calls London home and is excited about sharing the places that fuel and inspire her.

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The Flavours I Grew Up With

I love Ottolenghi on Upper Street. It was so wonderful to discover this place because it was the first time that I really felt like the flavours I had grown up with were being sold in London. I’ve been a regular visitor for about 10 years now. I live really close to the shop and I’ll often go on a Friday after yoga.

Where I Always Take Visitors

When food writers or friends come to London to visit, I take them to eat at Testi. I live in an area of London called Stoke Newington just off Green Lanes, the main road. It’s an area with a really vibrant Turkish community with people from Turkey as well as Cypriot-Turks and Kurdish-Turks. So of course, there are also hundreds of Turkish restaurants in the area, too. There are Turkish greengrocers, bakeries and ocakbaşlari, which are a kind of grill restaurant or mangal – the Turkish word for grill. Everyone in the area will have their favourite ocakbaşi, but mine is Testi. It does incredible grilled meats, beautiful roasted onion salads with pomegranate molasses, and I think it’s the best value-for-money food that you can get in London.

Where I Fell In Love With Ice-Cream

At the bottom of my street there’s an incredible gelateria called Romeo and Giulietta. I wasn’t ever massively into ice-cream and then this place opened up and it’s changed all my views on ice-cream and gelato. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall place. I don’t think you could fit more than four people inside the shop, so people spill out on the street. It’s always packed. The lady behind it, you almost feel like she’s Amélie: she has this playful joy about her when she’s scooping up ice-cream. I can’t go past the black cherry ice-cream or the raspberry sorbet. The sorbets are really incredible.

A Tapas Restaurant With A Nice, Buzzy Feel

Eating at Morito really does remind me of being in Spain. It’s a tapas restaurant and an off-shoot of Spanish restaurant Moro. I love the food. I love the small plates. I love the vibe. It’s like you’re eating from the Middle East to Spain and all across North Africa. The flavours are fantastic. You can have really nice Spanish sherries and it’s always got a really nice, buzzy feel to it.

The Rise Of Regional Indian Cuisines

What makes London really unique is the amount of restaurants now specialising in different types of food from the Indian subcontinent. There are places like Brick Lane where there have always been a lot of great Bangladeshi restaurants, but in the last five years, London has really been pushing and we’re seeing Indian cuisine move more into the casual mid-range restaurant. Places like Kricket, or Hoppers or Rasa or the Cinnamon Club or Darjeeling Express – they’re all great. I always send people to one of these because you can’t really get this type of food outside of London, and that feels really exciting.

Real-Deal Thai Barbecue Cooking

Som Saa is an incredible Thai restaurant that’s quite influenced from Northern Thai food. I love the marinated and barbecued chicken legs. The meat is so succulent. It’s so simple but it’s just so reminiscent of when you’re in Thailand and you’re on the street and people are grilling meat outside. It’s got that same flavour. I also love the stir-fried vegetables. Again, it sounds simple, but it has this wonderful smoky flavour and aroma. I’ve been travelling to Thailand for 10 years and also lived there for a bit: it’s just really rare to eat something and think, “Wow, this really takes me back”.

A Perfect Summer Picnic

Dalston Curve garden is like an oasis in the midst of this really inner-city, industrial part of London. It’s where I like to hang out in summer, when it’s open until about 11pm each night. It’s a wild, beautiful garden with lots of flowers, trees, lavender and garden beds for locals to grow food. It’s basically a transformed bit of disused green land. There are about 20 picnic benches and a pizza oven. In the summertime it often has live music on at night and sell wine, prosecco and beers on tap.

Brunch, The Middle Eastern Way

For lunch, I really like The Good Egg. It does a really great Iraqi aubergine pita called a sabich. It’s a really great Middle-Eastern brunch dish of beautiful pita bread stuffed with fried aubergines, boiled eggs, zucchini, pickles and tomato.

“Three Days’ Worth Of Cake In One Day”

Belle Epoque Patisserie has a really great almond croissant, which is probably the thing I love the most. It’s a classic French patisserie so you can get incredible breads and really lovely tarts, quiches and all of those delicious little dainty things like macarons and cream puffs. It’s all amazing but I always get the almond croissant. It’s really, really good. It’s quite dense and it does feel like you’re having three days’ worth of cake in one day, but it’s completely worth it. I really recommend it.

Profile Photography Credit: Matt Russell

Guide Last Updated March 2020

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