Two of the London restaurants I remember most fondly from my childhood couldn’t have been more different from one another; Goody’s Kosher Restaurant on Berwick Street and Isow’s Restaurant on Brewer Street.

Isow’s was an American-Jewish­-style restaurant. It had glitz and glamour in spades and was very much a celebrity hangout. The backs of the chairs were embossed with the names of stars who had dined there: Danny Kaye, Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day and many more. Muhammad Ali even held a press conference there. The food was pretty good too; never exceptional, but always served in huge portions!

Goody’s, on the other hand, was a narrow, Georgian-style, shop-­fronted­ premises just off Oxford Street. To get in, you had to fight your way past a voluminous velvet curtain before encountering a ­formidable lady, with gimlet eyes, dressed in black with dyed jet-black hair, guarding a large, mechanical cash register. She was cashier and bouncer rolled into one. I suspect no-one ever escaped without paying in full and leaving a significant gratuity.

Their mixed hors d’oeuvres — chopped liver and egg and onion with a side of pickled cucumbers — was a reliable start to a ­haimishe (home-style) meal. Chicken soup with the works was a delight. Roast chicken, helzel, salt beef with latkes, and of course their iconic cholent. Desserts were apple pie, lokshen kugel, or wonderful apple strudel, served with a glass of lemon tea. Each dish more substantial than the one before. Rather than a taxi rank outside, an ambulance station might have been more appropriate.

Potato latkes were a staple of both restaurants. I have known them to be served with cinnamon and sugar, but this is clearly an act of culinary vandalism.

Salt Beef and Potato Latkes

  • For the salt beef
  • 1.5  –  2 kg piece of salt beef brisket, not too lean
  • 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but cut in half
  • 2 onions, peeled and halved
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon of pickling spice (remove all but one clove)
  • Enough cold water to cover
  • For the potato latkes (makes about 20)
  • 1.5kg potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 150 g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying

To make the salt beef

  • Place the brisket, onions, carrots, garlic and pickling spice in a large pan. Cover with water to a depth of 5cm.
  • Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Cover the pan and cook for 3 – 4 hours, until the meat is soft and tender.

To make the latkes

  • Grate the potatoes and onions using a medium grater. Squeeze out any excess water and put into a mixing bowl with the beaten eggs and flour, and stir well to make a sloppy batter.
  • Add the salt and white pepper. Don’t let the batter stand for too long or the potato will blacken.
  • Heat 1cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan. When hot (but not smoking), fry a spoonful of batter until golden on each side. Taste to check the seasoning.
  • Use two dessert spoons of the mix per latke, flattened to form 10cm discs in the pan. Fry 4 – 6 at a time. When the undersides are golden, turn them over.
  • Continue to fry until they are brown and crispy.
  • When the brisket is cooked, lift from the pan, slice and serve with the latkes, boiled cabbage, English mustard (made from the powder) and new green pickled cucumbers.

The Just Not Kosher recipe collection is available to buy as a limited-edition card set from our shop. If you’d rather save cash and trees, feel free to browse our recipes here. If you like what you see and think we should make more, please make a contribution – we’d love to expand the collection and release new recipe sets.