If you’ve been reading our site for long enough or listen to our radio show/podcast you’ll be well aware how highly we rate what the Berber and Q do day in, day out. If you’ve been living under a rock without wifi recently, my elevator pitch is – two lads who have worked in and around London before meeting in Ottolenghi’s kitchen make a break from it to set up their own joint under a railway arch in Haggerston, East London, adapting a middle eastern style of food for those not wanting /needing the silver service.
We’ve been many a time – most recently to check out their new brunch menu and have listed them in our Best Food We Ate in London list and we made sure we were one of the first through the door once they opened after their soft opening.
Fantastic front of house staff are manning the door to ensure you have the shortest wait possible. The Exmouth Arms pub a few metres away is the perfect place to wait it out. A fantastic list of craft beers on tap and even more by the bottle. On this particular day the Camden Town Strawberry Hells Forever was tasting brill.
Sitting perched in the window on such a lovely warm summer’s evening is exactly how the rest of this season should have been allowed to play out if London played by anyone’s rules! This is such a great spot for people watching. The interior is really lovely – far more intimate and cosy than what Berber and Q is known for. It’s a much smaller space but really well utilised and feels like a sexy little sister to the more boisterous brother in the archway.
They’ve gone for real deal here in the kitchen with a full setup that even Josh admitted may have gotten the better of him early. He had a point too (especially on this sweltering evening). Having a sole fire and coal setup ideal for spit roasting lamb and chicken he’d just realised in the past week that you can’t just turn the heat off and on as your heart desires. The coals need constant upkeep and that means they need to be watched between service when no one’s serving. But who said opening a new concept was supposed to be easy. And it’s going to be all the rage once winter hits.
Like Berber and Q they have devised an amazing drinks list. To ensure everything works in perfect harmony they have a Middle-Eastern inspired beer, cocktail and wine list. With beers from Beirut, Israel & Morocco and cocktails using herbs and spices you’ll find in many of the dishes being served, they once again knock the rest of London off the block with inventiveness.
They do a really mix of meze dishes which are £4.50 each or you can get five for £20. We dove into the beetroot salatim, walnut and orange, the mixed tomatoes and tahina. Next up was the chilli, chilli, chilli and yogurt before cooling it all down with the Mesabaha. All absolutely fantastic. A word of warning to those that don’t want to waste stomach space – if there’s only a couple of you the five dishes could very well fill you up and you’d need to plan your next attack date very early in proceedings. Don’t blow your load too early.
It’s not the same style of platter type food that you get at Berber and Q or Ricks Garage. This is a little more refined – perfect for the Farringdon set who will become fast friends with this site.
Braised short rib and creme fraiche pita stuffed with tahini, herb salad and pickles. I’ve heard the sexy cauliflower is well worth ordering.
If you’re going to a place called Shawarma Bar how can you not also order the shawarma no matter how much bloody food you accidentally ordered?! Lighting my world on fire was the lamb shawarma with all the trimmings. This is a great little DIY dish that you can build up then tear down once you have the perfect mix of ingredients all stacked up onto of each other. This is one of those dishes that is so good that you just keep on shovelling until you can take it no more. Sometimes there’s no point in showing any restraint.
We were offered to try a new off menu dessert which we revelled in as we had the sense not to kill ourselves an order one for ourselves but the tempting halva soft serve sundae or ice cream pita sandwich would have easily won out if we did.
I’m happy to say that this one restaurant will finally alter the dish sadly associated with drunken journeys home until now. We couldn’t fault a dish. You need to take a big group in and literally order everything. We’ll be making religious pilgrimages to the site quite regularly so keep that window seat free guys!
Contact: 46 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE.
Opening times: Mon – Thurs: Noon-4pm, 5-11pm, Fri & Sat: Noon – 4pm & 5pm-midnight, Sun: Noon-4pm