Months after writing about the loss of my beloved Oishii, I had lunch in its successor, Saigon Bistro. I like to support independent businesses but was sadly disappointed. The stock of my pho bo tai lacked flavour as did my fellow InDulwicher, Nick’s com suon nuong. I didn’t appreciate having to go to the counter to order after having sat down with the menu, especially in a nearly empty place. I wish Saigon Bistro well but it won’t become one of my regulars.


My lament for lost restaurants seemed to strike a chord and it’s time I grouped my current favourites together. I wrote about Kaosarn in Brixton a few weeks ago. This is gorgeous Thai food for reasonable prices with lovely staff. It has also helped to purge me of a hangover or two, the chilli opening the pores.

Herne Hill, being my immediate neighbourhood, provides two for the list. 500 Degrees on Dulwich Road can be a bit cramped, tables close to the door can get a blast of cold air when someone comes in or out and I’m not sure I like decor (the stones set in the wall). For all that, it’s a super place. The pizzas are good, the specials almost always interesting and the staff nice. On a recent visit, our daughter had her head in a book and after a little chat, the waitress returned with a list of books she had read at that age.

This next one is a bit of a cheat. It’s Saray on Norwood Road in Herne Hill and the reason it’s a cheat is that I have been there just once. It’s picky, Turkish food and on a rare, grown up night out, we shared a range of dishes, following our usual practice of ordering a bunch of starters and mains together. It was pretty clear that this will slip into being a semi-regular. It just needs a little time.

I’ve always loved picking at various dishes, from Chinese takeaways when I was a kid to a spread set out to accompany a movie. The way I eat tapas may be completely inauthentic but that doesn’t matter. I had a great meal at Boqueria on Acre Lane a couple of years ago and Brindisa in Brixton and Borough also scores well but Meson Don Felipe on The Cut in Waterloo (pictured) is the one I’ll include on this list. It’s been there for yonks, the food is good, the decor is warm and I’ve been there with family and friends in various combinations.

While we are on The Cut, the balcony of the Young Vic, just over the road is a fine setting for a coffee and a savoury muffin. I regularly met an old friend there but alas he is no more and I haven’t eaten there since.

The last one on the list is in Chinatown. I’d never claim that the New World Restaurant has the best food but flagging the passing trolleys and choosing a dim sum dish or two is such a fun way to eat. Again, I’ve eaten there with various groups of friends and relatives.

That rounds off my personal list, unless I add Mokka in Reykjavik. It’s a cafe, though the ham and (tinned) asparagus sandwich is perversely good.

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