Bea Vo’s Top 5 London Holes-in-the-Wall

Bea Vo, founder of Stax Diner, Boondocks, The Famous Flames, and the recently opened Butterscotch (known collectively as the Feed Your Soul group), shared her top 5 holes in the wall. Bea says, ‘Holes-in-the-wall need to have the following:

No PR firm to speak of;

A thin film of food/grease/something that makes the chairs and tables feel just that right amount of sticky;

Not be the newest hottest thing in town;

No actual design process with regards to kitchen design, seating design, or any sort of design;

Not trendy. Never was trendy, never will be trendy.’

roti-joupa

Roti Joupa (Trinidadian).  Bea says, ‘While this doesn’t have the metal bars and bulletproof glass cashier style window of my favourite Trinidadian place in Washington D.C., Mike and Rita’s, it does indeed have hot doubles and buss-up shots. No frills, cash only, and with barely any seating around, this is a family-run joint and it shows.  Must-have dishes are the goat curry (with bones all the better to suck the sauce off of), the macaroni with hot sauce and tamarind sauce (it will change whatever thinking you ever had about macaroni and cheese), and always always go for the buss-up shots — a lovely feathery light paratha-like bread that just makes you wonder why we aren’t eating this as our toast every morning.’

Roti Joupa, 58 Goldhawk Road, W12 8HA


baiwei-sichuan

Baiwei (Sichuan). Bea says, ‘Effectively the smallest of the venerated Bar Shu group, this true hole-in-the-wall (literally you could be in the basement and literally eat in a hole, in a wall) has umami-packed dishes like twice-cooked pork with Sichuan peppercorns, fried green beans with pork (vegetarians beware), and Ma Po tofu (also with pork). Prepared for your bum to get numb 30 minutes in sitting on those wooden stools.’

Baiwei, 8 Little Newport Street, WC2H 7JJ


Roti King

Roti King (Malaysian). Bea says, ‘I still curse the day Marina O’ Loughlin wrote about them in a glowing review, which has now made getting a table quickly pretty much impossible (plus they used to do home delivery until they were overwhelmed with interest). Roti Canai is breakfast food in Malaysia but here I would have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack, elevenses, afternoon tea… you get the picture.  Slick, soft and crispy paratha served with a simple lentil curry. Nothing could be better.’

Roti King, 40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH


harana-turkish-mezze

Harana Shepherd’s Bush (Turkish). Bea says, ‘From the outside it looks like a typical Turkish grill takeaway, and the tables are fairly nondescript, save for a fun booth in the back — but I will throw it down and say they make the best falafel in London, hands down. It’s soft, it’s pillowy, you can’t even imagine it’s made from chickpeas, while the crust is reminiscent of the best fried taro croquette dim sum you can find. This is the place where you just order plate after plate of falafel (with a little mixed grill to boot) and be very content even under the fluorescent lighting.’

Harana Shepherd’s Bush, 118 Uxbridge Road, W12 8AA


assa-korean-soho

Assa (Korean). Bea says, ‘There are far more trendier, fresher, more refined, more sophisticated, and, by all metrics, better Korean restaurants out there. But Assa is that perfect hole-in-the-wall, with karaoke on the top floor — a place that you still can’t understand how they can afford the Soho rents with the prices they charge their food, and the distinct air of being a place to go to only if you’re determined to eat happily on the cheap, sacrificing comfort. My favourite location was the one in Centre Point where I’ve definitely left a few drawings on the wall, but, alas, has been torn down for shinier things.  You should come to Assa for one thing and one thing only: Hotpot. Pick a stew, pick some extra veg, noodles and rice to go with it (I like instant noodles and japchae sweet potato noodles for the win!) and just go to town.  No muss, no fuss, with free barley tea always on the table for you.’

Assa, 23 Romilly Street, W1D 5AQ