Tucked away in Borough Market, Arabica is a delicious combination of Syrian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Syrian, Egyptian and Turkish dishes. While the food remains classically Middle Eastern, the restaurant itself is all exposed brick and steel, a modern interior set within a high Victorian arch. Best for picky bits, Arabica’s hummus is a simple but standout dish; a slick of their flavourful, earthy iteration with chestnut mushrooms, garlic and pine nuts heaped onto warm flatbread is something you’ll be dreaming about for months afterwards.
Borough Market, 3 Rochester Walk, London SE1 9AF
After creating dishes at Ottolenghi and North London’s JW3, Bala Baya is Israeli-born head chef Eran Tibi’s first individual venture. Inspired by the 24/7 café culture of Tel Aviv, the restaurant recreates the buzz of the city’s eclectic food scene, with all dishes designed for sharing.
The interiors are an ode to the Bauhaus design prevalent in the Israeli capital; the space is light and bright, with exposed steam vents and an enormous pita oven constructed by the chef’s father in Tel Aviv taking centre stage. A mezzanine floor provides respite from the buzz of the downstairs bar area, whilst plants and breeze blocks from the city have been imported to create an authentic feel. The food comes beautifully presented and treads a fine line between elegant and substantial, so we’d suggest ordering no more than six dishes between two. If we had to choose just one thing from the menu? The burnt babka is the ultimate in indulgent desserts.
Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union St, London SE1 0LR
Berber & Q
For the meat-obsessed, Berber & Q is the place to go for spicy grilled offerings. Based in a reconditioned railway arch with a strict no-reservation policy, this place is worth any wait time. Inspired by the streets of Tel Aviv, the restaurant specialises in rotisserie meats slowly cooked over charcoal and wood. But their vegetarian options are just as appealing – the burnt beets are brimming with flavour, while their halloumi with burnt pineapple ezme is a match made in heaven. And if you’re planning on a night out in the bright lights of Hackney afterwards, you can forget about it – the portions are generous and served on metal trays, so all you’ll need is a sleep.
338 Acton Mews, London E8 4EA
Honey & Co
Honey & Co hasn’t been running for long in the grand scheme of things, but in their six years in London, they’ve garnered quite the reputation – no small feat for a thriving business run by just two people. Owned by husband and wife Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, the small, family run joint feels cosy and quaint, much like its seasonal menu. Their roasted mauve aubergine with a BBQ tahini crust and jeweled rice salad is warming and packed with flavour - perfect for when those dark nights start rolling in. Finish it off with the best baklava in London. The pair have also released a book, so you can recreate their famously delicious menus at home.
25 Warren St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 5LZ
From the masterminds behind Ottolenghi comes Nopi, a small-plates restaurant on Warwick street, right in the heart of central London. When it comes to the staunch meat-eaters among us, you simply can’t beat the deliciously blackened and crisp whole mackerel marinated in a pistachio sambal and coconut. For those who fancy an interesting twist on a classic, the burrata, white peach, verjus, coriander seeds is a new take on the world’s most Instagrammable cheese, with perfectly balanced flavouring.
Although the flavours of this place really pack a punch, Nopi’s interiors tone down its middle eastern influence, paying homage to its heritage through clean subtleties: it’s all about glossy white floors and even glossier white tables, finished with a gold-trimmed bar and light sconces – so be careful not to spill. Oh and make sure you take your phone to the Hall of Mirrors-esque bathroom to grab a snap for the ‘gram.
21-22 Warwick St, Soho, London W1B 5NE
If you fancy something a little livelier, then head to Palomar. A booming building in the middle of Soho, the front has a 16-seat zinc kitchen bar where you can sit and watch the chef at work. A mosaic marble floor leads to a 40-cover dining room at the back, all dark oak panelling and royal blue leather on the banquette seating. As for the food, Palomar is a celebration of contemporary Jerusalem cuisine, serving up inventive fusion food, with Jewish, Mediterranean and Arabic influences. While the tables out back provide a more intimate setting, the counter spot is where it’s at – you’ll get front row seats watching the talented chefs work their magic in the kitchen, but be prepared for a fairly interactive experience – it isn’t uncommon for the chefs to do shots with the customers.
34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN
Bringing a slice of the Middle East to sunny Clerkenwell, foodie hotspot Sarona serves traditional North African dishes with all the trimmings. Their selection isn’t extensive, meaning head chef Aviv Lavi – previously at Café Hampstead – has been able to concentrate on honing the flavours of his carefully curated menu. Such dishes as his chicken pargit, labneh with tomato seeds and Moroccan lentil stew are the standouts, but you really can’t beat the simplicity of their nutty, garlicky hummus scooped up on pillowy discs of pitta. The restaurant is also getting involved in London’s favourite mealtime with its new Mezze Brunch, offering diners bottomless Bellini’s and live music. Don’t go without trying the spicy shakshuka – we’re deadly serious when we say it’s the best we’ve ever tasted.
27 Clerkenwell Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 5RN
At this light and airy Marylebone hangout, husband-and-wife owners Amir and Limor Chen – the team behind 2016’s turkey-centric eatery Strut & Cluck – have decided to move away from concentrating solely on poultry and have instead crafted an inventive menu where the vegetables are the true stand-out dishes. From deep-fried fingers of spiced okra to zesty, smoky charred cauliflower and sweet, maple-glazed roasted pumpkin, these veggies are sizzling with flavour. Having said this, you’d be crazy not to try the one this this duo are known for: the vibrant turkey shawarma – glazed with honey, chargrilled and garnished with dates and pine nuts on a pillow of pita – that made Cluck & Strut famous in the first place.
56-58 Marylebone Ln, Marylebone, London W1U 2NX
Kebabs, but not as you know them. Kebabs have long had a bad rep as the end-of-night food of beer swiggers and club goers; a mistake you discover in your bed the next morning. But Le Bab is here to change all those expecations with their modern expression of the humble meat-and-pitta combo. Cooked on a wood and charcoal-fired robata, all their kebabs are made from seasonal ingredients and paired with flavour-punch condiments and wrapped in a warm, house-made flatbread. And if you’re still not sold, foodies will be thrilled to learn their kitchen is led by Federico Preti, formerly of Italy’s 3* Enoteca Pinchiorri and London’s famous fine-dining restaurant Le Gavroche.
Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
Taking inspiration from the Barbary Coast (but situated inside Neal’s Yard in Covent garden), The Barbary’s menu celebrates the North African cuisine, favourite exotic produce, flavoursome spices and cooking techniques passed down through generations.
This culinary romanticism continues when it comes to the menu, with meat, fish, vegetables and desserts being categorised as Land, Sea, Earth and Heaven. In terms of what to eat, their hash cake can solve even the biggest of problems, but it is their jaffa cauliflower that gets the most praise – and we’ve got to tell you, it lives up to the hype.
16 Neal's Yard, London WC2H 9DP
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