MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANTS

Hummus has become a supermarket staple, falafel wraps are now a go-to lunch, and there’s never a bad time to have a kebab – the love affair between Londoners and Middle Eastern food is a deep one, so it’s no surprise that the Middle Eastern restaurant scene in the capital has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

You’ve never been short of places to have a kebab in London but not all kebab houses are created equally. There’s Mangal II in Dalston, run by original founder Ali Dirik’s sons Ferhat and Sertac, which serves up some of the best Turkish food in town, including the doner kebab made from scratch in-house. Berenjak in Soho, inspired by the hole-in-the-wall restaurants of Tehran, serves up epic authentic Persian kababs whereas Maison Bab in Covent Garden puts a modern spin on them – their pork shawarma, slow-cooked for 15 hours and served with chermoula mayo with some iskender fondue fries on the side is a winner.

Then there are the proper neighbourhood joints that you find yourself going back to time and time again. Selin Kiazim’s Oklava knocks up modern Turkish treats courgette, feta and mint fritters; beef short rib pide; and house-baked bread with medjool date butter. Israeli chef Oded Oren takes inspo from his home city of Tel Aviv at his spot Oren, where you can get dishes like Jerusalem mixed grill; monkfish ‘chraime’ & hand rolled cous cous; and chargrilled hake kebabs & sheep’s yoghurt. Bubala is a fully veggie spot where you won’t miss the meat thanks to confit potato latkes with garlicky toum and ried aubergine with zhoug.

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MANGAL II

££
4 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 8BH, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 1:00 – 2:45 PM, 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Thursday: 1:00 – 2:45 PM, 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Friday: 1:00 – 2:45 PM, 5:30 – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 2:00 – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

One of the best things to happen in 2020 was the refurbishment of Mangal II, swiftly turning it into our new favourite Turkish restaurant in Dalston, and one of our favourite spots in the whole city. Original founder Ali Dirik’s sons, Ferhat and Sertac, are now running Mangal II and they’ve bought the place bang up to date with a more concise menu, daily specials, and more variety – and there’s even natural wines too. We especially love the doner kebab, which they make from scratch in-house, the spicy ezme salad, the whole grilled fish, the aubergine, the mushroom manti dumplings, and THOSE sumac grilled onions. Basically we love it all, and brothers Ferhat and Sertac are some of the nicest, hardest working guys in the biz. If you want the best Turkish food in London, then look no further than Mangal II.

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BUBALA

65 Commercial St, London E1 6BD, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 4:00 PM

Bubala, led by Marc Summers (ex-General Manager of Berber & Q) and head chef Helen Graham (ex-The Palomar, The Barbary and The Good Egg), has found its permanent home in Spitalfields. It’s inspired by the modern cafes of Tel Aviv and it also happens to be fully vegetarian. Helen brings with her some serious kitchen pedigree and with the bold flavours of Middle Eastern cooking on display, you won’t be missing the meat at all. Our standout dish is the fried halloumi (it’s unbelievably good and a reason to come here alone). Made by Kupros dairy in north London, the cheese itself is super soft (not rubbery at all like some halloumi) and is lightly fried at Bubala and drizzled with honey. We also love the confit potato latkes with garlicky toum; the hummus with burnt butter and pine nuts (make sure you order the laffa flatbread to go with it); and the fried aubergine with zhoug and date syrup. One for the hit list.

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THE BARBARY

16 Neal's Yard, London, UK

The Barbary is situated in the iconic Neal’s Yard and offers food inspired by countries that span the Barbary coast, from Israel to Morocco. Its dishes are made for sharing and kicking off with the freshly baked super light naan and dips is always a good start. Don’t miss the Moroccan cigars which are deep fried pastry rolls filled with a spicy cod mix, and then there’s the cauliflower Jaffa style which is incredible. It’s a bloody great dining option in Covent Garden, but with only 24 seats and food this good, expect queues.

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THE PALOMAR

34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN, United Kingdom

Getting a table at The Palomar might not be easy, but it’s SO worth the effort. The menu brings together the cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant and their Stone Bass Machluta and Jeresulam Mix of chicken liver, heart & veal sweetbread al-ha-plancha are must orders.

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COAL OFFICE

2 Bagley Walk, London N1C 4PQ, UK

As The Coal Office is inside the Tom Dixon HQ at Coal Drops Yard, it understandably looks pretty swish. Thankfully with Assaf Granit, who’s behind The Palomar and The Barbary, in charge of the menu, the food more than matches up. We’re talking kingfish sashimi, baked bone marrow shawarma, prawn pappardelle with cured lemon butter, beef fillet and black chickpea stew, and chocolate cardamom coffee tart. Er YUM.

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BERENJAK

Berenjak, Romilly Street, London, UK

Berenjak is a tiny, pretty uncomfortable, Iranian-inspired kebab restaurant smack bang in the middle of Soho. Here you can have kebabs that would happily form the basis of a death row meal, or at the very least eat without much guilt. Best of all is Berenjak’s tribute to the late night kebab shop: thin slices of shawarma on chips covered in garlic and chilli sauce. If your local kebab shop made them like this, you wouldn’t only eat them at 2am after nine pints. Other highlights include the Chenjeh Kabab, tender chunks of lamb rump marinated in chilli, yoghurt, and tarragon, and the starter of coal-cooked aubergine.

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BERBER & Q SHAWARMA BAR

££
46 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:30 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:30 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:30 – 11:30 PM

Sister to the main Berber & Q Grill House in Haggerston, this sexy Shawarma Bar serves up mezze and cocktails inspired by the streets of Tel Aviv. It’s all about slow-cooking and spit-roasting here with dishes like cauliflower shawarma, rotisserie chicken with dukkah and lamb shawarma with tahini & harissa on the menu. Don’t skip the fried potatoes with whipped feta and the Turkish coffee ice-cream, chocolate sauce & tahini crumb either.

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MAISON BAB

4 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA, UK

Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet, the pair behind Soho’s Le Bab – which we are big fans of – have also opened sister site Maison Bab in Covent Garden. Whilst by no means massive, it’s a significantly bigger restaurant than the original and they’ve nailed the millennial interiors with pink neon, patterned tables, green banquettes and a very jazzy floor. If you’ve been to Le Bab you’ll be familiar with the menu, though it’s not a carbon copy of the Soho site. There are more rustic and bolder dishes on show here, like the doner beignets with both garlic and chilli sauces, meat butter naans and iskender fondue fries. There are new sandwiches on offer too but the kebabs are always the winners – we can never resist the pork shawarma, slow-cooked for 15 hours and served with chermoula mayo.

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NUTSHELL

30 St Martin's Ln, London WC2N 4ER, UK

Nutshell, run by husband and wife team Mohammad Paknejad and Marwa Alkhalaf, is inspired by Mohammed’s childhood in Tehran, and it’s even named after the pistachio orchards his family has had for over a century. The decor – lots of pale pinks and greens – nods to this, as does the food. The menu is a modern take on Iranian food and is designed for sharing; it’s not that big a selection so you can get through a fair bit of it in one visit. If you want a break from booze, Nutshell has you well covered with their Iranian soft drinks, featuring homemade cordials and syrups. The bazaar bread, with its salt and sesame seed topped crust; the lamb shank with saffron rice; the duck fesejun; and tahdig chips are all winners. Nutshell is great place to have up your sleeve, especially amidst the madness of the West End.

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HONEY & SMOKE

££
216 Great Portland St, London W1W 5QW, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Saturday: 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Honey & Co, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s tiny Middle Eastern cafe near Warren Street, was a huge hit with everyone when it opened back in 2012. But if there was drawback to the place, it was its tiny room, which was always packed and near enough impossible to get in to. Thankfully they opened Honey & Smoke in 2016, where you can get a taste of their food, plus a bit of elbow room, in a site that was five times the size. The room is cool and spacious, decorated brightly with ochre walls, gleaming turquoise tiles and colourful circular patterns painted on one side. The mezze is excellent, particularly the hummus, the fried cauliflower and the aubergine and yoghurt dip with crisp ‘lavoush’ crackers. The minced lamb kebab with aubergine and burnt pepper is a great main to share. Honey & Smoke is a solid spot for Middle Eastern food in central, and if your only memory of these guys is squishing yourself into Honey & Co, then it’s well worth checking out its big sister instead.

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OREN

89 Shacklewell Ln, London E8 2EB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

He’s spent time at Louie Louie and running his own residency at Borough Wines in Kensal Rise and now Israeli chef Oded Oren has his first solo restaurant on Shacklewell Lane. It’s a cosy space with just 35 covers, and a few stools at a small bar. It’s definitely nailed that buzzy neighbourhood restaurant vibe – it’s always packed and the music’s always loud, so it’s got a nice lively feel. The food is inspired by his home city of Tel Aviv, so you can expect dishes like Jerusalem mixed grill; monkfish ‘chraime’ & hand rolled cous cous; chargrilled hake kebabs & sheep’s yoghurt; and freekeh-smoked green wheat with Westcombe dairy ricotta & fresh herbs, and Zeren Wilson has curated the wine list, whic features some fantastic organic/biodynamic bottles and at not too scary prices.

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OKLAVA

74 Luke St, London EC2A 4PY, UK

Centre stage at Oklava is the kitchen-bar complete with stone oven and charcoal grill, where you can watch the chefs in action as they prepare tasty modern Turkish dishes. The menu at Oklava is split into snacks, salads and grains, pides, seafood and meat dishes, including treats like courgette, feta and mint fritters; beef short rib pide; and crispy pomegranate glazed lamb breast. Make sure to get the house-baked bread with medjool date butter too, SO GOOD.

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ARABICA

3 Rochester Walk, London, UK

With restaurants in King’s Cross and Borough Market, Arabica uses an amalgamation of ingredients from Lebanon, Beirut, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem to create a selection of delicacies from all over the Middle East. Menu heavy hitters include lamb adana kofte with pickled cabbage, charred sumac onions & pita croutons; chermoula sea bream with herbed labneh & burnt lemon; spinach & feta boregi; and prawn pide, along with familiar dipping faves like hummus and baba ghanoush. Sweet toothed diners can enjoy the likes baklava and kunefe, and if you’re hungry for more, Arabica sells a range of spices, pantry goods, wine and meze for you to carry on with at home.

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BERBER & Q GRILL HOUSE

££
338 Acton Mews, London E8 4EA, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 6:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 6:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Thursday: 6:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Friday: 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 6:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

The older brother of the Berber & Q shawarma bar, the OG Berber & Q specialises in smoked and grilled dishes with a range of Middle Eastern influences. The vegetables are shown the same amount of love as the meat with dishes like cauliflower shawarma and grilled broccoli with muhammara & garlic crisps sure to have any self-respecting vegetarian writhing in ecstasy. Carnivores can also get hot-smoked merguez sausage, coffee-rubbed pork belly and low-and-slow lamb mechoui hot off the grill too.

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BALA BAYA

Old union yard arches, London SE1 0LX, UK

Hidden within the Union Street arches in Southwark, Bala Baya puts its own vibrant twist on Israeli cuisine. Not only does the restaurant takes inspiration from those bright Middle Eastern flavours, but the decor also mimics the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv. Highlights on the menu include Bala Baya’s prawn baklava, kebab dumplings, and Tunisian tartar, which are meant to be shared in true Middle Eastern style. If you find yourself struggling to choose, you can opt for a journey through the menu as curated by head chef Eran Tibi.

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NOPI

£££
21-22 Warwick St, London W1B 5NE, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Thursday: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Friday: 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
  • Saturday: 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
  • Sunday: Closed

Nopi is Yotam Ottolenghi’s Soho spot and the all-day restaurants celebrates bold flavours and inspired takes on Middle Eastern cooking with dishes like courgette and manouri fritters, coriander seed-crusted burrata with slices of blood orange and Valdeón cheesecake. Their cocktail menu isn’t lacking in creativity either, with classic serves alongside spice-infused bevvies like the sumac negroni, rose & cardamom gimlet and cherry & pine nut old fashioned.

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ROVI

£££
59 Wells St, London W1A 3AE, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 3:00 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 – 3:30 PM, 5:00 – 10:30 PM
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 3:30 PM, 5:30 – 10:30 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 3:30 PM

Another of Ottolenghi’s restaurants, ROVI holds vegetables in high regard with a focus on fermentation and cooking over fire. We’re talking dishes like grilled octopus with borlotti bean piyaz, preserved lemon & sumac tropea onion; saddleback pork chops with charred peppers, pistachio & lime salsa; and Jerusalem mixed grill with baharat onions, pickles, pita & tahini. The restaurant is centered around a large central bar with cocktails based on seasonal spices and house shrubs, and a dynamic low-intervention wine list from small producers. A great addition to Ottolenghi’s culinary catalogue of restaurants.

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EM SHERIF

Harrods, 87 135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 6:00 PM

Beirut is one of our favourite cities in the world – and a big part of that is down to the incredible food. Now, one of the city’s hottest restaurants, Em Sherif, has arrived in London taking over a corner spot in Harrods. Em Sherif was founded by Mireille Hayek in Beirut in 2011 and has since expanded across the region, into Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait to name a few – the Harrods location is the first in Europe. the menu reads like a catalogue of classic Lebanese dishes with a few modern, attention-grabbing twists like the hummus topped with grilled wagyu beef. Other must-orders include manoushe bread with zaatar, fattoush, tabouleh, and spiced tomato salad. You can’t move for shawarma in Beirut so it’s only right to get a lamb shawarma here too and you can choose to have a wrap or as a bowl where you can kinda DIY it with flatbreads, sauces and pickles.

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NANDINE

45 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8TR, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 5:00 – 10:15 PM
  • Tuesday: 5:00 – 10:15 PM
  • Wednesday: 5:00 – 10:15 PM
  • Thursday: 5:00 – 10:15 PM
  • Friday: 5:00 – 10:15 PM
  • Saturday: 10:00 AM – 10:15 PM
  • Sunday: 10:00 AM – 10:15 PM

Some restaurants win you over as soon as you walk in the door and Nandine in Camberwell is one of them. The homespun decor – plywood, pink painted brickwork, rattan lampshades and cute little vases of flowers on each table – charms you and then the kitchen keeps you enthralled with the food. Founded by Pary Baban, Nandine is a celebration of Kurdish food (Nandine means ‘kitchen’ in Kurdish). After she was displaced from her home in Kurdistan under the rule of Saddam Hussein, Pary spent time with relatives across the country, during which she collected recipes and documented regional dishes. She came to the UK in 1995, settling in South London, and started to sell Kurdish food in Elephant & Castle in 2007, before opening Nandine on Vestry Road in 2016 and then expanding to this site on Church Street. The food is packed with flavour, from the beaut beharat fries to the Kurdish dumplings to the stew tapsi; the portions are generous; and Nandine does some of the best baklava in London, so get down there for a true taste of Kurdish food.

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