London Underground: London’s ‘little Romania’, where it’s ‘rough around the edges’ but the restaurants are so good they taste ‘like mum’s cooking’
Cafes and shops fly the Romanian flag with pride. As part of our London 365 project, we visited Burnt Oak to find out more about this little corner of Romania in the capital, located between Colindale and Edgware on the London Underground.
Local resident Marius Pepoo Marius, 38, came to the UK from Romania in 2007. He works in Burnt Oak as a tattoo artist and says he was drawn to the area because the amazing Romanian food reminded him of his home country.
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Speaking to MyLondon, he said: “For me, it was hard to find Romanian food before 2014 in London, as there weren’t many places. When I came here to Burnt Oak, I was blown away. There were so many restaurants. It was like having my mother’s kitchen but not having my mother, if that makes any sense.
“So it was very exciting for me. I was trying all the different foods that I couldn’t get in stores. They make great food here and it’s not expensive.”
When asked about Burnt Oak as an area in general, Marius replied, “Well, it can be a little rough around the edges, but there’s a great community here and it’s a big part of London.”
Down the street from Marius’s tattoo parlor is the Bijal Food Centre, a store that caters to the area’s Indian and Afro-Caribbean community. The owner, Pravin Shah, 70, opened the store with his family in 1976.
He said: “There weren’t many stores for the Indians back then. Later, we added Afro-Caribbean groceries to the store to provide as we start to have Afro-Caribbean customers as well.”
Pravin tells me that the businesses on Main Street are struggling right now. The influx is less and they struggle to compete with the larger supermarket chains nearby: “It used to be busy, but now a lot has changed. All the businesses on this path are very similar to each other and it is difficult to compete.
Before I left I asked Marius where is the best place in Burnt Oak to eat Romanian food. Without hesitation he says Brasseria Timisoreana. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open, but I hope to return one day to see some of their Sarmale (stuffed lettuce) and other classic Romanian dishes.”
Romanian is the second most widely spoken language and about 35 percent of immigrants living in the suburb are from the Eastern European country, according to the Office for National Statistics.
There are 143,000 Romanians in London, making them the fourth largest foreign community in the capital. A large influx of Romanians settled here after restrictions preventing EU citizens from working in the UK were lifted in 2014.
Burnt Oak has a lively high street lined with colorful greengrocers, cafes and kebab shops, and there were once concerns that this would change in a post-Brexit Britain. But in 2023, it still seems like the place to be for Romanian Londoners to get a taste of home.
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