Berber and Q Shawarma Bar
After a week in Bristol, I took the MegaBus to London. It’s going to be my home for the next few months while Craig is on a work assignment there. My first night in London, my new city and what feels like a new chapter in our relationship, I met Craig at our hotel bar. I had walked from the District Blackfriar’s Tube stop and was tired and hungry. I had one of my favorite ciders: Swedish Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime. I first tried Rekorderlig last May during our houseboat week on the Norfolk Broads and they do not disappoint.
After taking my stuff up and changing into something more presentable than the teeshirt and leggings I wore on the bus, we waked over to Exmouth Market in Islington. The pedestrian-friendly street is teeming with hip restaurants, pubs, coffee houses and shops. Craig had his eye set on Berber and Q Shawarma Bar and it ended being one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten together.
The bar is tiled in white with “shawarma” and bowls of food written on the tiles in dry erase marker. The new Berber and Q cookbook is on sale at the bar for 25 quid. We had to wait a few minutes for a table and then got seated at the bar where we could watch the magic in the making cocktails with house-made vermouth and delicious eats.
The cocktail and wine list are more extensive than the limited beer offerings. The Grains and Paradise ale with ginger and cardamom beat the listlessness of the Beirut lager (the middle east is not known for craft ale and I should have known better.) The Grains of Paradise is brewed in London and was created especially for Berber and Q. It’s delicious.
One of the waiters sported a shirt in Helvetica reading: Disco and techno and deep house and Berber and Q. The soundtrack of house music enhanced the trendy vibe we felt as soon as we walked in. The momentum carried us through the olives which arrived first and through the mezze, or middle eastern salads, that made up the bulk of our meal.
Berber and Q Shawarma Bar opened in the summer of 2016 as a companion restaurant to the Berber and Q Grill House, which opened in 2015, brain children of chef Josh Katz. Our waiter strongly urged us to order the cauliflower shawarma and it was hands down the best cauliflower dish either of us has ever eaten. Grilled, yet still firm, the quarter head of veg is seasoned to perfection with four different sauces, pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley and a light whipped tahini sauce. I never thought I would get excited about a cauliflower but the combination of firm crunch, spiced masala butter and light whipped tahini along with some of the slightly singed greens was quite a spectacle. It looked great, decorated with copped parsley, bright ruby pomegranate fruit and rose petals. It tasted great, firm moist and spiced with the citrus relief of the passion fruit over the spiced masala mix, and you can even try to make it yourself.
The Iraqi hummus was also presented beautifully. Finely whipped, smooth spiced hummus with elements of texture provided by grilled aubergines, sliced boiled egg and sweet sharp pickles. Dashes of spiced chili oil and dustings of ground spices finished off the dish, redefining what a hummus should be, alternating layers of texture and flavour.
The beetroot and whipped feta gently fried cooked beets with the savoriness of the walnuts and sweet/tartness of pomegranate made every bite for this lactose intolerant foodie worth it.
The ground lamb was tender and pulverised in such a way to make the perfect spread for hot pitta although it was a bit salty and honestly was put to shame by the vegetarian dishes we ordered. Babaganoush is my favorite mezze in general and while this one was good, it wasn’t as spectacular as some of the other dishes we ordered.
On the whole the service was laid back and friendly and the food was impressive for the price and offered a good variety of dishes. Avoid large mains and go for multiple small dishes and I’m sure you will not be disappointed.