For years now, Yotam Ottolenghi has infatuated London foodies and lovers of Middle Eastern food alike. Now that you’ve developed a taste for pomegranate molasses, pine nuts, and preserved lemons, you want more, so where to next? Here are three restaurants to scratch that itch.
Show off to your friends at Sesame, a new fast food outlet from the Ottolenghi team. It’s in the middle of Covent Garden, so you can spend a happy morning shopping and make a pit stop for a healthy, but tasty, lunch. This isn’t your average kebab shop; it takes its inspiration from the freshest food markets in Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel. You step inside and admire the brown and turquoise Moroccan tiles that line the walls (and would look great in your bathroom) and glance above the counter for the menu. You can’t resist the spiced lamb kebab with chopped salad, tahini, mint yoghurt, and zhoug (a hot and spicy relish). It comes in an incredibly thick, soft, and fluffy pitta filled with fragrant salad and lamb so tender your knife cuts through it like butter. Your friend has the sabick; an Israeli sandwich made with aubergine, boiled egg, tahini, and mango pickle. She remarks it would be delicious at breakfast, which is perfect because Sesame opens at 7 a.m.
Honey & Co.
On Warren Street, you find Honey & Co, a delightfully small restaurant run by an Israeli couple. You book a table for a large party (Honey & Co is great for birthdays and gatherings), and look forward to a night spent sharing mezze and more. When you arrive, you dig the buzzy vibe and interior that’s more Tel Aviv than Bloomsbury. You order from the summer menu and your friends clear the table because they know it’ll get crowded. First comes the incredible falafel with tahini, supremely garlicky hummus, and soft, hot pitta bread. The next things to arrive at your table are the labaneh (a cross between yoghurt and soft cheese) and the tabule, which is more herb than grain. There’s now so much food on the table, you almost forgot you also ordered the pomegranate molasses chicken and cold cheesecake. You joke with your friends that you know how the restaurant got its name: Everything is sweet and delicious.
If you’re after street food with a hipster vibe, then head to Soho for the original Yalla Yalla and get a taste of Beirut-influenced cuisine. It’s nearly always crowded, but it’s worth it. And it’s a great place to go for a romantic dinner after a drink at one of the cool bars close-by. You sit down at a little wooden table and admire the restaurant’s striking black, white, and yellow colour scheme. You order some mezze to share, as well as some homemade spicy Lebanese sausages and the famous sautéed chicken liver with garlic and pomegranate molasses. The sweet and sour flavours on the menu do something crazy to your senses, and before you know it, it’s getting late. Is it time to go home? There’s always time for a few more bites of this or that.