Middle Eastern

YASMIN

1 Warwick St, London W1B 5LR

As well as boasting Nessa on the ground floor, 1 Warwick also has a hot rooftop restaurant from Tom Cenci in the shape of Yasmin. You can head up to the sixth floor spot for Middle Eastern sharing plates, inspired by Tom’s time living in Istanbul, like spinach & feta borek, sumac smoked duck with grilled corn salad, za’atar spiced mushroom skewer with black garlic mayo, islak bun with beef patty & spiced tomato sauce, and baklava ice cream sandwich with honey & date molasses. With cocktails like the Shapash (tequila, chilli, watermelon & green strawberry) or the At the River (vodka, aperol & rose liquor), Yasmin is also a great spot for sundowners in Soho – and there’s indoor seating for when the temperatures dip along with the sun.

THE GOOD EGG

93 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0AS

The Good Egg has long been a Stokey fave thanks to its Middle Eastern menu, inspired by Tel Aviv street food, and the Jewish delis and bagel shops in NYC and Montreal. In Stokey, the brunch menu features treats bacon & date pitas, egg & cheese bagels, shakshuka, challah French toast, and babka, and over in the Stables Market in Camden, there’s more of the same, as well as street food fave knafeh ka’ak – crisp kataifi pastry with thyme & orange syrup and lots of gooey cheese, stuffed into a sesame bagel. The Camden location is also open into the evenings, meaning you can feast on sharing plates like labneh with pumpkin seed relish, za’atar fried chicken with chilli honey, lamb shawarma with pickles & hummus and cornbread with zhoug & honey butter. There are biodynamic wines on offer but we love the sour cherry & campari spritz, and don’t leave without getting a slice of babka to go from the takeaway counter.

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CAFE HELEN

Right in the heart of town, Cafe Helen is *the* choice if you’re after shawarma in the Edgware Road area. It’s been around since 1991 (that’s about 74 years in London restaurant years), so we reckon the cafe is about due its well-deserved institution status.

RANOUSH JUICE

Part of the Maroush group of restaurants (all of which are open pretty late), the Edgware Road branch of Ranoush Juice is open until from 9am to 3am, so it’s got you covered when you crave Lebanese food any time of the day or night. Those cravings do strike for a lot of people as there’s often a queue but the falafel, shawarma, baklava, meghli and fruit cocktail juices are worth waiting for.

UMUT 2000

Umut 2000 in Dalston is constantly praised for its authentic and carefully prepared food – it’s a strong contender for the title of best Turkish grill in Dalston, which says a lot. The menu is packed with meat and fish dishes cooked over a charcoal grill, but make sure you don’t miss their wraps (these guys have a rep for killer wraps).

THE COUNTER

108 Golborne Rd, London W10 5NR

Fans of counter dining, you’re in luck because The Counter in Notting Hill is exactly what it says on the tin. At The Counter, the dining room is set up with an open kitchen and ocakbasi grill as the central feature with, of course, a counter around it where guests can sit and have a peek at all the grilling action. The food takes inspiration mainly from the southeastern Anatolia region, with a menu of seasonal dishes, including the likes of chocolate babaganoush, humus & Medjool dates, kebabs, koftas, stews and desserts such as kireçte kabak (pumpkin, clotted cream, tahini and dukkah) and supangle (dark chocolate pudding with a pistachio crumb). There are plenty of Turkish wines on the drinks list alongside cocktails and traditional Turkish soft drinks, so there really is something for everyone.

BALA BAYA

229 Union St, London SE1 0LR

Bala Baya, from Israeli born chef Eran Tibi, is all about bringing a taste of Tel Aviv to Southwark and there’s no better way to dive in than with the Brunch Feast. Kick off with a sharing selection of mezze, including pink tarama, labneh & za’atar, and some of the best tahini in town alongside plenty of fluffy pitas for dipping. Then it’s onto mains – we particularly rate the Fish Clouds, herb-packed smoked haddock fish cakes with tarama, fennel & apple salad and a poached egg, and the Breakfast Brisket Doughnut, rich beef brisket with bonfire tomato & chilli and spiced jus, served on a Tunisian doughnut with amba tahini and a fried egg. It’s a bit like a Middle Eastern-meets-BBQ take on an eggs benny and it’s real good. You finish off with a taster trio of puds – quince pudding with a meringue top and creme anglaise, burnt pistachio babka with blackberry compote, and coconut malabi with black tahini – saving you the trouble of trying to choose between them. Add on a jug of gazoz soda (which you can spike with booze if you’re so inclined) and you’ve got yourself a real good time.

THE TENT (AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE)

You can probably tell just by the name of this place that it ain’t ya average restaurant. And we wouldn’t have expected anything less from chef John Javier (@sex.pesto) who’s been cooking at hugely hyped pop-ups in London over the past couple of years. The Tent (at the End of the Universe) is his latest project and, having opened earlier in the year for members only in a new spot on Little Portland Street, the restaurant is now open for everyone to go and check out. It’s a very small dark room and the vibe is basically a deluxe dessert Bedouin tent with a star lit ceiling, hanging moon lights and tent-like fabric covering the walls – told you it wasn’t your average spot. There’s just a few tables plus decks where a DJ sits playing tunes each night on a ridiculously good sound system. Photos are forbidden so you can give yourself a night off the ‘gram. It’s all very unusual but we loved it for that. The food fits largely along a Middle Eastern route, but with several twists along the way, like hummus with chilli oil and burnt lime, tzatziki dressed with wakame oil, and Iberico pork schnitzel with a katsuobushi mayo.

BUBALA SOHO

We’ve been big fans of Bubala ever since it opened in Spitalfields in 2019 so we were very excited to hear that founder Marc Summers had a second site on the way. Open in Soho on the site where Vasco & Piero used to be, the new 50-cover Bubala has the same vibe interiors-wise, with plaster walls, light wood, natural tones, plants dotted about the place, and counter seating at the (bigger) bar, and it follows the same formula of serving up excellent veggie Middle Eastern food. Executive Chef Helen Graham has kept many of the hit dishes from the Spitalfields restaurant, including the labneh with confit garlic, the honey-drenched halloumi and the confit potato latkes, but added some newbies that make use of the restaurant’s yakitori grill, like Chinese cabbage & preserved lime and oyster mushroom & tamari skewers, and corn ribs with black garlic pipelchuma, and every single dish is a hit.

NANDINE

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.

YENI

Yeni, opened in Soho by Cem Bilge and chef Civan Er, the founders of Yeni Lokanta in Istanbul, opened on Beak Street in 2019. It’s a lovely space with double-height ceilings, whitewashed brick walls, hand-blown glass chandeliers, Levantine tiles adding pops of colour, and an open kitchen at the heart of the room, all combining to transport you to Turkey as soon as you step inside. That’s continued on the menu, which is a modern take on Turkish food that draws inspo from Civan’s childhood in Istanbul and the rich history of Anatolian cuisine. There’s a carte blanche option if you want the chefs to do the choosing for you but if you go a la carte don’t miss the freshly grilled Tava bread and smoked butter; the beef manti in double fermented yoghurt sauce, the citrus salad of pomelo, orange, grapefruit and fennel, topped with spicy sour cherry sorbet; and the lamb cooked over the wood fire.

EM SHERIF

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.

ROVI

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.

NOPI

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.

BALA BAYA

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.

BERBER & Q GRILL HOUSE

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.

ARABICA

3 Rochester Walk, London

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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