Best Middle Eastern restaurants in London

If you’re bored of traditional British fare and fancy a change from fish and chips, then why not try out some Middle Eastern restaurants in London? If you’re craving some hummus, labneh or shawarma, then pick from our selection of London’s best Middle Eastern restaurants. When it comes to the best Middle Eastern restaurants in London, you’ll find them right here. If you want to step things up from your normal post-night-out kebab and sample what is fast becoming one of the capital’s hottest cuisines, you’ll find some of the finest examples at these London Middle Eastern restaurants. Scroll down to check out our list of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in London.

Updated on 07 January 2019

Find the best Middle Eastern restaurants in London with Square Meal’s excellent guide to the finest Middle Eastern restaurants in London. Middle Eastern cuisine has increased in popularity over recent years, with its subtle flavours and healthy ingredients. Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses the food of many different countries, from Turkey to Lebanon and Iran to Egypt to name but a few, and has brought an exciting, new way of eating to the tables of London.

Square Meal has put together a handpicked list of the top Middle Eastern restaurants in London, guaranteeing you experience the very best that Middle Eastern dining has to offer. From superb Turkish restaurants to fantastic Lebanese restaurants, London boasts an enviable selection of Middle Eastern restaurants.

Every one of the Middle Eastern restaurants featured in Square Meal’s list of London’s top Middle Eastern restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with Square Meal today. As well as the restaurants on this page, we have listings for Middle Eastern restaurants in Knightsbridge, and Chelsea and Fulham as well as Middle Eastern restaurants in many other areas of London . Each Square Meal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.

Oklava

Oklava

74 Luke Street, London, EC2A 4PY

Lauded as a “great modern take on Turkish food”, cosy Oklava takes its culinary inspiration from chef Selin Kiazim’s native roots. Sophisticated small plates are the order of the day, from complementary bread with Medjool date butter or nibbles of chilli-roast cauliflower studded with “jewels of pistachio” to meaty braised octopus with ricotta, green olives, honey and “tangy” pickled caper shoots or well-seasoned char-grilled chicken with Kayseri pastirma dressing and thyme. We also rate the herb-flecked lahmacun (Turkish ‘pizza’) and the crispy pomegranate-glazed lamb breast with yoghurt, although desserts such as a rather unimaginative peach and vanilla borek with hot white chocolate and poached peach can let the side down. Prices are affordable, friendly staff are happy to guide novices through the menu, and the well-curated wine list features some “very interesting” Turkish tipples. Also check out innovative cocktails such as Smoky Mangal (Cypriot brandy, charcoal syrup, lemon and bitters).

£30 - £49
Turkish
Maroush Gardens

Maroush Gardens

1 Connaught Street, London, W2 2DH

Very much the word on the street – as long as that street is Edgware Road – the Maroush family takes in Maroush I (the party one), Beirut Express (the quick one), Maroush Deli (the retail one), Sidi Maarouf (the tented one) and more besides. Maroush Gardens, with its soaring greenery and water feature, is the most upmarket and has a cool sense of escape about it. The cooking reflects what’s on offer at the rest of the group: okra or beans cooked in a rich tomato sauce, kibbeh, grills and rice pudding fragrant with rosewater. Readers report some disappointing moments in the various venues (overcharging and indifferent service in particular), although the staff at MG come across as kind and courteous. 

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Melabes

Melabes

221 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6SG

This newcomer might look like a café for take outs, but the food at Melabes is far better than the casual setting suggests. The bustling ground-floor, with its brick walls, filament bulbs, bistro chairs and green banquettes is the natural place to drop in for lunch, but make the effort to go upstairs and you’ll find a proper dining room if you have time to linger. House speciality pitta (baked in house) is the natural lunch option, from a properly made beef and lamb kebab heady with tahini to a not-for-the-fainthearted banana and toffee number, but we’d recommend coming in the evening (Melabes is licensed) and constructing a mezze meal of three or four decently sized plates.

Excellent hummus comes with even-better chilli and lemon sauce for pitta dipping, chunky falafel taste fresh rather than too fried, while ‘arias’ involve triangles of toasted pittas deep filled with spring onion and minced lamb. Vegan-friendly options include a hunk of chargrilled cauliflower and a beautifully textured coconut and rose-water dessert that manages to be both sweet and refreshing; we also loved the fresh mint and lemongrass tea. Down at the bottom end of High Street Ken, Melabes is the perfect lunch spot if you’re visiting the nearby Design Museum, or you could construct a lovely spread to take-away and picnic on in Holland Park over the road.

Middle Eastern
Byblos Harbour

Byblos Harbour

The Waterfront, 41 Millharbour, London, London, E14 9NB

Tiny Byblos Harbour is one of the few Docklands restaurants to successfully achieve that elusive neighbourhood feel and credit must go to the staff who go out of their way to welcome locals and visitors from the nether regions of the capital. Billed as a ‘Lebanese brasserie’, it sets out its stall with a tempting array of hot and cold mezze – baba gannouj, foul moudamas (fava beans) and kibbeh (minced lamb and wheat balls) – before parading its main events. Expect a choice of grills such as lamb cutlets or baby chicken, which can be matched with a bottle of Château Musar from the short wine list. After that, a shot of arak or a shisha pipe on the waterside terrace keep it all authentic. A moped service whizzes £4 wraps to businesses around the estate.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Halal
£50 - £79
Le Bab

Le Bab

2nd Floor, Kingly Court, London, W1B 5PW

Disproving those gourmet kebab doubters, this tucked-away top-floor youngblood is packing in savvy Londoners, leaving Carnaby’s tourists to pick over Kingly Court’s more visible choices. Le Bab’s trump card is a clutch of hot-shot chefs (ex-Le Gavroche, no less), who make everything on the menu from scratch. Their line-up is sensibly short and reasonably priced, although we urge you to order at least two kebabs, served ‘open’ with cutlery. Admire the artful presentation, then get stuck into the likes of pork shawarma with skin crackling and broccoli purée or the equally good BBQ paneer version, its fiery charcoal flavours offset by light touches of beetroot and toum (garlic sauce). Seasonal sides might include purple kohlrabi salad, while specials such as grouse on basmati pilaf allow the kitchen to flex its muscles. The location is cramped, but bright and busy – so bag a counter seat and stay cool with a bottle from the London Beer Factory.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Noura Belgravia

Noura Belgravia

16 Hobart Place, London, SW1W 0HH

Dreamt up by two brothers who found fame in Paris during the 80s, the Noura chain has several outlets in the capital, including this impressive flagship in Belgravia– a two-tiered eatery comprising a casual brasserie and a more classy restaurant. The massive menu is built for sharing and covers all bases from hot and cold mezze to intensely succulent slabs of roasted or grilled meat (the mixed shawarma offers a bit of everything) and some terrific veggie choices ranging from meatless moussaka to bamieh (okra cooked with tomato and coriander). For afters, Lebanese-inspired ice creams, baklava or aish el saraya (a richly caramelised bread pudding with clotted cream) should fit the bill. A wallet-friendly lunch menu (£22.50) feeds the business crowd, while black-tied service keeps things slick and professional.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Halal
Honey & Smoke

Honey & Smoke

216 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5QW

This canteen-like Middle-Eastern grill is a larger follow-up to Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s Honey & Co, which is just around the corner. The Israeli couple have collected many fans for their cooking, which is clearly the priority: the room is sparse, functional and stills feels quite like the tiles showroom it once was. A fun crowd of enthusiasts lends it a friendly atmosphere, however. Too-small tables will have you jostling plates which arrive when ready, bringing the likes of burnt celeriac with chilli butter, or octopus grilled with red chillies. Our highlight was a sticky, cool and sweet combination of honey-drizzled charred pears with almond-speckled tahini. A generous portion of baba ganoush with seeded lavoush was fine but tame, as was lamb kofta with a meagre salad. Disorganised, understaffed service needs to be addressed, but Honey & Co's famed baking for dessert sweetens the deal. There’s a small list of interesting European wines, while the set menu offers good value for (very hungry) diners.

Images by Patricia Niven

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
The Coal Office

The Coal Office

2 Bagley Walk, London, London, N1C 4PQ

Designer Tom Dixon clearly has a thing for canals. His old HQ was by the Grand Union Canal at the top of Ladbroke Grove and featured a restaurant where chef Stevie Parle shot to fame. For his new place he’s chosen a brick warehouse from 1851 that gently curves around the Regent’s Canal in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, immediately recognisable from the other restaurants in the new development by the Melt pendant lights that glow like illuminated amoeba from the windows of Dixon’s shop, studio and restaurant. 

Cheffing duties this time around fall to Assaf Granit, the brains behind the world-famous Machneyuda in Jerusalem and a collaborator on The Palomar and Barbary. Some of The Palomar’s greatest hits are here, including addictive kubaleh bread to scoop up the sweet and sour of tomato confit and reduced yoghurt, while The Palomar’s deconstructed shikshukit kebab has been reconstructed as a superbly juicy chunk of lamb and beef – the best thing we ate. 

Other dishes and flavours were new to us – ‘ironed chicken’ on a remarkable layer of violet polenta and black bulgur, by turns smooth and crunchy, and aubergine melted to a sticky pulp from the Josper oven so that it tasted transformed into essence of aubergine. 

Not everything is so successful – shish barak, a sort of yoghurt ravioli, was a bland disappointment, ditto a fig-leaf ice cream, made on site – and prices are punchy to say the least: £16 struck us as very steep for a starter-sized portion of kebab that provided about four mouthfuls; arrive with an appetite and expect a food bill of £40 a head for the food alone.  

And while the 160-seat site, spread over a restaurant, chef’s table, bar and roof terrace, might not have the hugger-mugger intimacy of Granit’s previous London restaurants, the vibe provided by global beats, shouts from an open kitchen and, especially, Dixon’s beguiling design imprint provide a seductively hypnotic buzz. If Coal Office is anything to go by, the rest of Coal Drops Yard is going to be smoking hot.  

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Pasha - Upper Street

Pasha - Upper Street

301 Upper Street, London, N1 2TU

Owned by the same family since the 1960s, this polished Turkish restaurant now counts Boris Johnson among its fans. The usual eastern clichés are absent from the chic, modern room, though the young waiters still play their traditional role with a twinkle in the eye as they greet the ladies. There’s the odd report of slipping standards when it comes to the food, though the fairly lengthy menu still holds plenty of enticements. Incongruously, traditional British roasts are served on Sundays, but it’s the Turkish dishes that tempt the taste buds. How about incik (slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with tomatoes, onions and oregano) or moussaka made to a family recipe, followed by apricots filled with cream and pistachio nuts? A short choice of cocktails for pre-dinner sipping joins a few well-chosen wines on the drinks list.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Abd el Wahab

Abd el Wahab

2 Pont Street, London, SW1X 9EJ

Founded in Beirut in 1999 and now with 18 restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Bahrain, Qatar and Cairo, cosmopolitan Abd el Wahab should do well with the Middle Eastern clientele who call Belgravia home through the summer months.

All the classic mezze are present and correct: salty halloumi, hummus with or without lamb and pine nuts, spicy little sojok sausages, meat-stuffed pastries – although we found that much of what we ate lacked the robustly defined flavours of the best Lebanese cooking, and arrived lukewarm to boot. Our best dish, a wonderfully pungent salad of aged goat’s cheese with onion and parsley, doused in olive oil, suggests that taking the route less well-travelled may be the way to get the most from the kitchen.

To follow, there are variations on grilled chicken and lamb, prawns and fish, plus pastries for pud, but we were too stuffed from the mezze to go any further. And for a dining room that was far from busy, service could have been a lot more attentive. London isn’t well served with upmarket Lebanese restaurants, and with some refining of flavours and fine-tuning of service, this smart newcomer could do well.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Kenza

Kenza

10 Devonshire Square, London, London, EC2M 4YP

Etched brass, glowing lanterns, tapestries, embroidered pillows and the aroma of sweet spices all help to give Kenza its atmospheric vibe (the name is Arabic for ‘treasure’). Set up by Algerian-born Tony Kitous (of Comptoir Libanais fame), this exotic hangout is known for its heady mix of “charming” service, blasting North African beats and home-style Lebanese cooking. Char-grilled meats, kebabs, tagines and other mainstays loom large, although we recommend the feast menu with its ample selection of mezze: tabbouleh, batata harra (spicy sautéed potatoes with red pepper), falafel, fatayer sabanegh (spinach, pine nut and sumac pastries) and suchlike. For mains, there might be moussaka or farowj meshwi – charcoal-grilled baby chicken with a Lebanese salad, rice and harissa, which can be matched to a North African wine from the international list. Afterwards, pop down to the cocktail lounge for DJ sounds and belly dancing.  

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
Ishbilia

Ishbilia

9 William Street, London, SW1X 9HL

Given the seasonal influx of Middle Eastern residents hereabouts, it’s hardly surprising that there are plenty of eateries designed with them in mind – although this friendly Lebanese was doing great trade before London became such a summer destination for the super-rich. Families dropping in for lunch and supper tend to take up most of the large terrace and ground floor, but the richly decorated alcoves downstairs are ideal for private dinners and liaisons. There’s a huge array of mezze to choose from, but their moutabal topped with pomegranate, and creamy hummus kawarmah with diced lamb and pine nuts get our vote. After that, progress to some charcoal-grilled kebabs or a home-style stew served with rice, before rounding off with a lip-sticking baklava. Though most customers stick to water and tea, there’s a decent wine list for those who want it.

£50 - £79
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
Kyseri

Kyseri

64 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DN

Modern Turkish Oklava won legions of fans when it opened in Shoreditch back in 2015 and now restaurateurs Laura Christie and Selin Kiazim hope to repeat their success with this stylish and intimate follow up, right by Warren Street tube. The menu is inspired by dishes from the city of Kayseri; the ‘a’ has supposedly been dropped in order to show that Kyseri offers up Turkish dishes with a twist, although we suspect it’s also because it makes the restaurant easier to Google.

Innovative small plates to share include the likes of a canapé-sized lamb and loquat skewer: dainty, yet punchy, the sweet and juicy loquat providing a perfect contrast to the intense, spice-laden lamb. We were also impressed by veal sweetbreads, which saw meltingly soft meat massaged with creamy hazelnut yoghurt and brown butter. The Turkish pasta is another highlight: manti (dumpling-style pasta parcels) are stuffed with sour cherry-flecked beef and served with a blend of yoghurt and a peppery red sauce, which you’ll have to resist licking clean off the plate.

An intriguing wine list champions small producers from Turkey and the Middle East, while desserts also excite: we were particularly taken by the sweet-as-can-be honey ice cream, sandwiched between two crumbly crackers. Cool, calm and seriously delicious, Kyseri is a little slice of Turkish heaven.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Nopi

Nopi

21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE

Aimed higher than his eponymous deli/café chain, Yottam Ottolenghi's "gleaming" spin-off hits its target with ease: the cream-coloured ground floor is a serene space artfully decorated with white tiles, polished marble and brass fittings, while downstairs offers large communal tables and an open kitchen. However, readers save most praise for Nopi's "exquisite", "healthy" and supremely tasty food: raw cauliflower is paired with sprouts, nectarines and Gorgonzola, sea trout gets a global makeover with koji rice, watercress pesto and labneh, while beef short-rib keeps more familiar company with smoked beer glaze and horseradish. Whether you're sharing dishes or going it alone with one of the more expensive mains, it's all about creativity and depth of flavour. Signature cocktails also pick up on the kitchen's eclectic ingredients. Some bemoan high prices and petite portions, but most reckon that Nopi is "worth every penny".

£50 - £79
Mediterranean
Fusion
Berber & Q

Berber & Q

Arch 338, Acton Mews, London, E8 4EA

Nailing two huge food trends in one fell swoop, ex-Ottolenghi chef Josh Katz’s Haggerston railway arch hangout Berber & Q brings together smoky BBQ and culinary influences from North Africa and the Middle East. It hasn’t missed a beat since its 2015 opening, and we’ve been floored by its barrage of explosive flavours: blackened aubergine and egg ‘sabich’ are given a thrilling extra dimension with homemade mango pickle; cauliflower shawarma from the charcoal-fired mangal is dressed with tahini and rose petals, while a tray of sticky harissa chicken wings calls for several sides of serviettes (don’t even think about ordering this on a date). The atmosphere is energetic, the lighting low, the volume high; reservations aren’t taken (naturally), but there’s space at the bar, where you can sup their own Crate beer or amuse yourself with funky cocktails with names like Haggerstoned or Scammed in Marrakech.

£30 - £49
North African
Middle Eastern
Amber

Amber

21 Piazza Walk London, London, E1 8QH

Tucked away in a luxury apartment complex five minutes from Aldgate station, Amber is a Middle Eastern all-dayer, offering a menu of sharing plates. The modern space is light and airy, with bamboo furniture and hanging house plants creating a relaxed vibe. Come dinnertime, the open kitchen turns out a run of delectable small plates, starting with the likes of crispy squid dipped in harissa mayo, and charcoal-baked bread with lashings of soft butter. Next up come more substantial takes, including a plate of warm and doughy pide which arrives stuffed with uber-fresh cubes of feta and spicy chorizo, completed by an assembly of veg: velvety caramelised onions, bursts of cherry tomato and goats’ cheese. Elsewhere, meltingly-soft pork belly is topped with crispy crackling and bitter bundles of kimchi, while for dessert, there are daily-changing options from the kitchen, or you can opt for a slice of homemade cake from the counter.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Black Axe Mangal

Black Axe Mangal

156 Canonbury Road, London, N1 2UP

When you take a hipster who’s spent 10 years working at St John Bread & Wine, a pop-up restaurant, a Copenhagen nightclub and a swish version of Turkish kebabbery, the result is bound to be pretty cool. Lee Tiernan and his wife Kate have created their own selection of ‘kebabs, beers and other tasty junk’. Forget pitta: instead you’ll find imaginative plates such as salty smoked cod roe and crisps, followed by plump mussels with deliciously fatty bacon and zingy chilli. A plate of meaty kids’ offal is a delight, gloriously balanced by a side of hispi cabbage. We greedily followed this with Chinese-spiced Adana of lambs' tongues (a revelation), which arrived with lashings of sauce that we dutifully mopped up with homemade flatbread. Drinks are equally good (including a cocktail list from Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana): a Lagerita does the trick, counterbalancing the spice, but giving an extra Tequila kick. 

Under £30
International
Villa Mama

Villa Mama's

25-27 Elystan Street, London, SW3 3NT

Chef and restaurateur Roaya Saleh has brought her Villa Mama concept over from Bahrain to the well-heeled streets of Chelsea. A few doors down from Phil Howard’s Elystan Street, the relaxed, cosy space features tables topped with marble, vintage chapel chairs and piles of comfy scatter cushions. Open daily from 8am, Villa Mama’s breakfast offering centres around khubus (a tandoor-cooked flatbread), served with eggs and cheese, or jam and yoghurt. On our evening visit, the menu had switched focus to sharing plates and the crowd is decidedly Chelsea; from the tapas-style starters, we enjoyed cinnamon-coated, tender lamb kofta served atop creamy mash with bursts of cherry molasses, alongside a stack of grilled aubergine; soft and crunch contrasted thanks to a layer of caramelised onion and walnuts. Larger plates meanwhile include an aromatic, taste bud-busting lamb stew, peppered with herbs and kidney beans, and fall-off-the-bone braised lamb shank with rosemary and pine nuts. Desserts are also influenced by Saleh’s heritage, including the likes of a fragrant rose water rice pudding, and an Egyptian twist on bread and butter pudding. To drink, there are glasses of house wine and a range of cocktails, while guests can also purchase the restaurant’s own brand herbs and spices. Prices are high, but with such homey cooking, we think Saleh is on to a winner.

£30 - £49
Persian
Kazan

Kazan

93-94 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DW

“Quite a find among the tourist dross at the back of Victoria”, Kazan is all about Ottoman opulence – antique lamps and silk cushions may have given way to sleek contemporary looks, but the soft glow from teardrop-shaped lights and the privacy afforded by ornate screens create a seductively romantic atmosphere. The kitchen shows its class with a mix of Turkish family favourites and Ottoman-style specialities – so expect numerous hot and cold appetisers (try the ‘drunken’ calamari marinated in vodka), plus ‘fire grills’ and specialities ranging from hunkar begendi (stewed spiced lamb on smoked aubergine relish) to monkfish and prawn kebabs with bulgur and salad. To finish, check out delights such as dark chocolate ‘pyramids’ with pistachio ice cream or apricots stuffed with clotted cream and walnuts. At lunchtime, there are speedy set menus and mezze feasts to share – perfect with an ice-cold Efes beer.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Al Waha Restaurant

Al Waha Restaurant

75 Westbourne Grove,Bayswater, London, W2 4UL

One of London’s smarter Lebanese options, Al Waha still has the friendly neighbourhood vibe that has made it a Westboune Grove fixture since the 1990s. Waiters navigate between the closely-set tables in the split-level dining room; tables by the windows have the best atmosphere, while those on the mezzanine are better suited to larger groups. As you might expect, hot and cold mezze are the menu’s highlight and will suit most appetites as an entire meal. Our top picks are hummus kawarmah (topped with diced lamb and pine nuts), the kibbeh nayeh (raw lamb with crushed wheat, spices and garnished with onions), the pizza-like arayes topped with minced lamb, parsley, sesame paste and pine nuts, and sambousek, cheese-stuffed pastries. Should you still have room, chicken, lamb and fish to follow comes with an irresistible smoky edge from the charcoal grill. To drink, the well-priced wine list leads with Lebanon and has loads under £30, while prices overall are very reasonable for the quality of food and the generosity if the portions.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Hazev

Hazev

Discovery Dock West, 2 South Quay Square, London, E14 9RT

London's Tas chain is renowned for its fresh, affordable Turkish flavours, and this is exactly what the founder's Canary Wharf spot provides, albeit in a smarter setting than most of its sister eateries. The waterside backdrop is a good start, and the spacious interior also bodes well. While meaty aromas waft through from the kitchen, the veggie mezze also offers temptation – borek pastries, mücver goats' cheese and courgette patties, grilled sweet peppers with 'white cheese' or spinach with yoghurt and garlic. Kofte, shish kebabs and more complex plates of lamb or chicken come with couscous, though casseroles and seafood dishes are also worth considering – we like the prawn guvech stew, rich in plump crustacea. The space is split into three sections, so you're equally welcome to pop in for a full meal, a snack in the deli or a drink at the bar.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Yalla Yalla - Green

Yalla Yalla - Green's Court

1 Green's Court, London, W1F 0HA

A welcome find down a jazzy old passageway between Berwick Street and Brewer Street, natty-looking Yalla Yalla serves ‘Beirut street food’ from a counter laden with baked goods. As well as falafel, shawarma and spicy potato or sausage wraps, there are savoury manaee’sh pastries with spinach or wild thyme and sumac, plus cherry or fig tarts. Bag a rustic wooden table and share some ‘highly affordable’ mezze, and ‘amazing, fresh and tasty’ mains such as charcoal-grilled minced lamb skewers (aka kafta meshoué) or marinated king prawns. Wines from the Bekaa Valley, including Château Kefraya, come in at around £5 a glass; otherwise, fruit juices (pomegranate, carrot, apple/mint/ginger) are available for refreshment. Be sure to book ahead or be prepared to wait, since it’s tiny and very popular.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
The Barbary

The Barbary

16 Neal's Yard, London, WC2H 9DP

The Barbary Coast evokes images of an exotic land of traders and pirates – and it provides inspiration for the second London restaurant from the team behind The Palomar. Like its big brother, The Barbary offers an enticing blend of Israeli cooking with Mediterranean ingredients, but also adds North African spices and cooking techniques. You’ll find a warm welcome and lively vibe in the cosy interior, which echoes a Middle Eastern courtyard with an open kitchen at its heart. No bookings are taken and there are just 24 counter seats. Breads are freshly baked: warm Jerusalem bagel comes with a traditional paper twist of za’atar spice for dipping. The short menu is divided into land (meat), sea (fish) and earth (vegetarian) dishes – all deftly spiced and seasoned, making flavours sing. We were transported to the Middle East with rich, tender Persian goat stew, slow-cooked for eight hours with turmeric, root veg and pomegranate juice. Perfectly grilled swordfish was simply served with capers, roast garlic and vine tomatoes. Desserts are sweet and fragrant – Beirut nights (semolina pudding with rose syrup) lives up to its name with enticing flavours – and another boon is the drinks list, encompassing trendy orange wines, vermouth and arak. 

£30 - £49
North African
Delamina

Delamina

56-58 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2NX

Occupying a prime spot just off Wigmore Street, Delamina is well-placed to mop up diners from foodie Marylebone and restaurant-starved Oxford Street. Husband and wife owners Amir and Limor Chen also own Strut & Cluck in Shoreditch, and with Delamina’s muted colour palette and homely furniture, there’s a strong family resemblance between the two restaurants, although tables feel much closer together here: don’t come with anything confidential to discuss.

The cooking takes its cue from Limor’s childhood in Tel Aviv as well as a family background that takes in Russia and Iran. Unusually for this style of food, main courses and puddings were the best things we ate, especially a beguilingly sweet and spicy whole poussin glazed with ras-el-hanout and honey, and a super-smooth halva and roast almond parfait in which the sugariness was offset by a savoury drizzle of tahini. We also rated pitta with a double dip of aubergine and tahini, and an alluring jumble of charcoaled leeks with manouri cheese and dried apricots. To drink, there’s a short list of wines and beers including options from Lebanon and Israel. Friendly staff are another plus at an eastern Mediterranean restaurant that offers a fresh alternative to the usual Middle Eastern mezze-and-grills formula.

£30 - £49
Mediterranean
Ishtar

Ishtar

10-12 Crawford Street, London, London, W1U 6AZ

The inviting open frontage is a big advantage for this Turkish grill in the summer months, while the interior makes an equally bullish statement of intent: green walls, contemporary candelabra-style light fittings and a copper ceiling signal that this is no run-of-the-mill kebab joint. That said, the charcoal grill is a significant player, adding a smoky tinge to marinated aubergines, lamb chops or skewered minced chicken and peppers (curiously wrapped in a tortilla), but the kitchen also makes its point with rich flavours, slightly fussy presentation and a menu that runs from tabbouleh and falafel to poached octopus, braised lamb shank in tomato sauce and veggie moussaka. Set lunches and express menus are a big draw, while the drinks list includes a couple of Turkish wines. Handy if you’re looking for something posher than the ethnic eateries on nearby Edgware Road. 

£30 - £49
Turkish
Best Mangal

Best Mangal

619 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5UQ

Best Mangal’s oçakbasi-grilled food has proved so popular that it now owns three jam-packed outlets less than a mile apart. It’s easy to see the attraction – the Broadway branch’s charcoal grill sends lip-tingling barbecue aromas all the way to Stamford Bridge while turning out juicy, flame-licked meat to order. The interiors might be utilitarian, but the food more than makes up for it: kick off with plates of hot and cold mezze, then go for an open kebab of marinated lamb with zingy salad and a bowl of Turkish breads, or opt for something more exotic – say grilled spatchcock quail, washed down with plenty of Efes beer. To end, nibble on sticky Turkish pastries before setting into the shisha lounge for some fruity puffing. All three sites also do a roaring takeaway trade.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Turkish
Berenjak

Berenjak

27 Romilly Street, London, London, W1D 5AL

This new Iranian restaurant is spearheaded by founder and former Gymkhana chef Kian Samyani and is inspired by the kebab joints of Tehran, Iran’s capital. The real influence, though, comes from backers JKS Restaurants (the owners of Gymkhana), who have created a Middle Eastern equivalent of their Sri Lankan smash-hit Hoppers.

Berenjak is a tiny corridor-like space, with seating for couples at stools at a counter overlooking the open kitchen, and tables for four in leatherette booths along a wall decorated with artfully distressed plaster; a small dining room behind has – what else? – a Persian rug on the floor. It’s atmospherically snug, with light and heat coming from a flaming tandoor and the coals of a mangal barbecue.

The idea is for two people to share half a dozen small plates, prettily served on silver saucers, before a couple of kebabs each. A dish of aubergine combined with onions cooked for so long they were almost caramelised was the real flavour revelation, scooped up with excellent bread from the clay tandoor; elsewhere grilled calf’s liver with onion salad added punch and a feta salad creamy freshness.

To follow, a kebab made with minced goat shoulder was terrifically succulent and beautifully seasoned, though the dish destined for must-order status is the kabab torki, the post-pub guilty pleasure of chips and kebab meat re-invented as a mixed meat shawarma atop a bed of fries drizzled with homemade chilli and garlic sauce that actually taste of the ingredients they’re made from. Order a side of authentically hot pickled chillis to cut through the richness.

Without drinks, you could eat very well at Berenjak for £30 a head, though that would be to miss out on the charms of the house-special fruit cordials (lemon and parsley, saffron and apple) that can be spiked with vodka, gin and Tequila. Two wines at £28 and two at £35 will bump up the bill considerably, but beer at £4 a bottle is more in the spirit of the cheap and very cheerful spirit of the place.  

As at no-bookings Hoppers, staff take your mobile number and text you when your table is available; waiting over a Martini at Kettners next door is no hardship when a meal at this Aladdin’s cave of a restaurant is the reward.

Middle Eastern
Yeni

Yeni

55 Beak Street, London, London, W1F 9SH

You wouldn’t know it from looking through the big windows, but this small dining room, decorated in the standard Soho mufti of distressed walls, statement lights, colour-pop tiles and a central communal table, is an offshoot of one of the hottest restaurants in Istanbul, Yeni Lokanta. But the warmth of the welcome from the sweet young staff and a quick look at the menu (and prices) from star Turkish chef Civan Er makes it clear that, as its name promises – Yeni is the Turkish word for ‘new’ – we’re a long way from Green Lanes. 

The big break with trad Turkish is to have a menu drilled down to around a dozen dishes, with the idea that two people should share four starters and one main, though anyone as hungry as we were might want to add a second main – small portions are another thing that’s new about Yeni’s re-invention of the traditional Anatolian repertoire.

Cig kofte upgraded the usual raw beef meatballs to a full-blown steak tartare, the finely minced meat fragrant with herbs and topped with a deep-fried potato ball which cracked open to reveal a dribbling egg yolk. Pan-fried feta tweaked the familiar cheese-and-honey combo with the addition of hazelnut and samphire to produce a very satisfying dish of cream and crunch cut through by the iodine tang of the samphire.

Our main of roasted beef ribs, spiced with isot pepper and cumin and served on a bed of sourdough to soak up the slow-cooked meat juices also impressed; only a mushy starter of olive-oil braised celeriac tasted lacklustre, although we appreciated the occasional jolt of anchovies.

But although we liked nearly everything we ate, we felt that prices (for both food and wine) were hard to swallow given the homely surrounds and low-key vibe, not least if you were paying for the privilege of sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers rather than at one of the smaller tables. But like the toffee-flavoured smoked butter served with toasted sourdough, Yeni does offer an eye-opening taste of modern Turkish cooking and a welcome dose of originality in Soho.

Turkish
Mangal 1

Mangal 1

10 Arcola Street, London, E8 2DJ

As smoke fills a side road off busy Stoke Newington High Street, large buckets of charcoal are carried in to feed the roaring monster inside this Turkish ocakbasi restaurant. You're face to face with the ocak grill as soon as you enter, and tables are packed tightly into the small room, but sit here rather than in the calmer extension next door, because the thrill of the grill is what it's all about. A chilled cabinet is stocked with kebabs, chops, chicken wings and quails – just order a plate of juicy mixed meats and a pile of spanking-fresh salad, plus some creamy cacik (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic) and tuck in. You can buy Turkish beer and red wine, but almost everyone brings their own – making dinner here even more of a bargain.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Kebab Queen at Maison Bab

Kebab Queen at Maison Bab

4 Mercer Walk, London, London, WC2H 9FA

Just when you thought you’d seen it all on London’s ever-eventful restaurant scene, along comes a high-end, kebabs-only chef’s table coming to London. Found underneath purveyors of pimped-up kebabs Maison Bab in Covent Garden, the brilliantly named Kebab Queen serves a seven-course tasting menu, with guests encouraged to eat with their hands (perhaps a homage to the humble, late-night kebabs of old?)

Diners sit front row around the kitchen, perched on one of 10 cobalt blue, leather-clad stools. Some design features echo that of a traditional kebab joint, such as the stainless steel walls, while others appear to have been designed with social media in mind – witness the pastel pink curtains and the pink tiled concrete floor.

The chef’s table is hidden behind the illuminated façade of a classic British kebab shop, with dishes cooked on a custom wood-fired grill, before being served directly onto a heated Dekton countertop (no fiddly bits like plates and cutlery here, thank you very much.) The multi-course menu kicks off with two starters, including the likes of a foie gras kebabito: a miniature, two-bite kebab of barbecued foie gras. Other dishes you’ll come across include a doner risotto (lamb jus risotto finished with classic garnishes and shavings of lamb tongue), and a fish course of chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish, served with chicken skin and ‘plated’ onto a charred cabbage leaf.

For your main course, you’ll enjoy a rum-aged Spit Roast Fesenjan Duck. Inspired by the dish of Iranian stew, it is served with a crust of crisp Persian rice, intended to be pulled apart with your fingers. Dessert meanwhile, will be presented as ‘Got Milk?’ – an ode to the head chef's childhood, this sweet treat sees freshly-baked, sticky milk buns filled with caramelised cream and topped with crème fraiche sorbet.

 

£50 - £79
Middle Eastern
Turkish
Arabica Bar & Kitchen

Arabica Bar & Kitchen

3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, London, SE1 9AF

Deep in Borough Market, this restaurant spin-off from Arabica's popular food and spice stall has made quite an impression on readers, who love the "sheer breadth of tastes" on a menu that stretches "from Athens via Yerevan and Old Jaff to Cairo". The whole place may shake as trains rattle overhead, but its dramatic location beneath a railway arch (plus blaring music) adds to the fun-loving, "strangely comforting" vibe. Hits from the vast Middle Eastern/international menu have included big, crunchy lamb kibbeh, "superbly done" lahmacun (Armenian pizza), authentic tarama and slices of raw yellowfin tuna in a spiky dressing of citrus, chilli and rose water – although we're also fans of the knafeh (warm Levantine cheese pastry topped with orange-blossom honey and crushed pistachios). The cost of numerous small plates can soon add up, but punters are rarely disappointed.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
The Palomar

The Palomar

34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN

“What an experience!” shouts a fan of The Palomar – a fun-loving foodie hangout driven by funky chef Tomer Amedi’s infectious joie de vivre. The whole place feels like a house party, complete with hard drinks, kooky cocktails, loud beats, kitchen banter and “laid-back staff”. A grill-focused menu references the cuisine of modern Jerusalem, so be prepared for highly original food with a seasonal slant: we’re hooked on the ‘chicken under pressure’ with citrus, lentils and courgettes, the ‘Josperised’ octopus with chickpea msabacha, and the Persian pappardelle with artichoke, lemon and mangetout. Elsewhere, the bread is “fantastic” and the chopped liver is “sublime”, while the pick of the puds has to be ‘kiss kiss bang bang’ – a wicked confection of pomegranate ‘basbousa’ semolina cake, halva ice cream and almond palmier. You’ll need to queue for a seat at the no-bookings counter, but it’s worth it just to watch the kitchen’s livewire performances. When it’s really firing (and that’s most of the time), The Palomar is Soho at its best – and the perfect spot if you want to “impress your friends”.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
International
Al Hamra

Al Hamra

31-33 Shepherd Market, London, W1J 7PT

Trapped in the gastro-bubble of newly revitalised Shepherd Market, this unchanging bastion of Lebanese culinary tradition now seems a tad anachronistic. The menu is an inexhaustible, 100-strong selection of hot and cold mezze standards that yields bankable takes on baba gannouj, hoummos, falafel, tabbouleh and kibbeh, supported by a grill with real charcoal, meat-led mains showcasing at least 20 ways with lamb, and daily supplies of fresh fish – although you can always veer off the predictable path with a plate of lamb’s testicles or some chopped raw lamb with bulgur wheat. Kindly priced Château Musar, award-winning window-box blooms, and outdoor seating add some extra sheen to Al Hamra’s solidly sound cooking – although painful cover charges, surly service and acres of patterned felt are in definite need of sprucing up.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Halal
£30 - £49
Iznik

Iznik

19 Highbury Park, London, N5 1QJ

Named after the Turkish city famous for the elaborate tiles that adorn its walls, this family-run restaurant has the air of an exotic eastern bazaar. Iznik has been feeding locals for more than 20 years, and although some complain about slow or apathetic service at the busiest times, the packed tables are testament to the quality of the creative Ottoman cuisine. There’s a decent selection of hot and cold mezze, most under £5, as well as the expected mixed grill. But mains also include more adventurous choices such as king prawns sautéed with walnut and garlic. Vegetarians are well catered for, with the likes of kuru dolma (sun-dried aubergine and courgette filled with bulgur dressed with yoghurt). To drink, there’s refreshing Efes Pilsen, along with wines from a somewhat pricey list. Finish with ayva tatlisi (quince braised in syrup, with cream), just one of the sweet temptations.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Pucci Mayfair

Pucci Mayfair

Pucci Mayfair, 39 Maddox Street, London, W1S 1FX

Legendary King’s Road hotspot Pucci Pizza – a hangout of Rod Stewart and Bryan Ferry in its 1980s heyday – has been re-booted for the 21st-century in W1. Mayfair is the new Chelsea according to Rufus Albanese, owner of the new incarnation and heir to the original, and he’s followed the money here to Maddox Street, where in a nod to the area’s high-spending locals you’ll find Lebanese-style sharing plates alongside crisp-based pizzas. It’s an odd combination and the flavours don’t quite harmonise, but if you don’t mix and match pizza with mezze, you’ll eat well here.

We preferred a light Maddox pizza, topped with tomato, a sprinkling of mozzarella di bufala, bresaola, rocket and plenty of parmesan shavings, to truffle toppings richer than Pucci’s target market of well-heeled diners. 

The beautifully presented Lebanese dishes, though, were the highlight of our meal, transforming the table into a colourful paradise of speckled ceramic vessels. A wedge of delica pumpkin was a sweet delight, drizzled with honey, toasted pomegranates and London Fettle feta. Pair this with the tangy house-made labneh, a Middle Eastern yoghurt jazzed up with caraway, beetroot and pistachio, which can also be used as a creamy dip for the brioche-like barbari bread. The succulent lamb chops, though eye-wateringly expensive at £26, were a triumph, grilled to perfection on a bed of tzatziki and harissa.

Should you have room, divvy up a generous portion of sharing-style Pavlova, topped with prosecco-soaked peaches and with a sharp lemon verbena filling. A largely Italian wine list includes a delicate Piedmont white and a velvety Primitivo number that paired nicely with our dishes.

Apart from the mash-up of pizza and mezze, there’s nothing new on offer at Pucci, but exposed brick walls and velvet banquettes add to the mood of casual luxe, while floor-to-ceiling windows offer plenty of posing opportunities.  

Image credit: Leef Photography

Pizza
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
Italian
Antepliler

Antepliler

139 Upper Street, London, N1 1QP

With a hugely popular café, patisserie & restaurant in Harringay under their belt, the owners of this shiny new Turkish venue have nearly 20 years’ experience, & it shows. They’ve created a glamorous space, with twinkling lights, pale-blue damask on the chairs, tables inlaid with mother of pearl, & folding doors that open to tempt in Islington’s café society. All the expected mezze are here, packed with fresh herbs & spices, & served by friendly yet professional staff. Main courses, most around £10, focus on lamb & chicken, marinated & smoky from the charcoal grill. Pide ‘pizzas’ are a speciality, & come with enticing toppings such as minced meat, garlic, tomatoes & peppers, cheese & herbs, & spicy Turkish sausage. On the drinks list, the Anatolian house wine is joined by an interesting selection of international grapes.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Hovarda

Hovarda

Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DW

Darting between Turkish and Greek cuisines, this Soho grill isn’t quite sure where its culinary expertise lies. Nevertheless, Hovarda (‘vagabond’ in Turkish) is an enchanting spot, its glamorous dining room decked out in aquatic blue and gold tones, its waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. Small plates may be commonplace in London nowadays, but the concept is welcome here thanks to such accomplished cooking. Rings of battered squid dipped in a sharp squid-ink sauce made a promising start to our impressive meal. Strips of coal-roasted red pepper were enlivened by hints of mint and lime; hollowed-out red mullet arrived uber-fresh and mixed with juicy chunks of tomato and avocado; and crispy rolls of filo pastry contrasted well with their delicate crab meat filling (although the tart lemon sauce that accompanied them wasn’t needed).

Dish of the night was an intensely smoky, delectably tender ox cheek paired with thick baba ganoush. We’d recommend not skipping dessert either – our pick being the miniature balls of fried pastry (lokma) that arrive drizzled with sweet-as-can-be thyme honey, a sprinkling of walnuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. On your way out, stop by the stand-alone cocktail bar that turns out plenty of diverting concoctions, including the signature Hovarda cocktail where yoghurt and coffee are blended to create a creamy mix that is more subtle than you might expect. Service is perhaps slightly too attentive and prices can add up, but overall Hovarda is a welcome addition to Rupert Street’s already impressive gastronomic line-up.

£30 - £49
Greek
Honey & Co

Honey & Co

25a Warren Street, London, W1T 5LZ

Freshness and subtle spicing are the hallmarks of Honey & Co’s relentlessly popular re-invigoration of Middle Eastern dining. Punters pack the diminutive room surrounded by shelves deep-laden with preserves, produce and cookbooks, while the kitchen delivers “adventure and flair” right through the day. Like the space itself, staff are warm and inclusive, showing a passion for a menu that blends comfort and care. Mezze is the smart sociable choice, with tables heaving under bowls of pillowy hummus, carrot falafels, braised aubergines, feta borek, house pickles, labneh, olives and home-baked breads – all before the mains arrive. Our roast lamb on a zingy grape and bulgur salad was highly enjoyable, though minced lamb with a tahini and yoghurt crust proved an indulgence too far. The iced teas are a booze-free delight and the cheesecake with Greek thyme honey is irresistible. Meanwhile, breakfast pastries are a “favourite pick-me-up” for one regular.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Cafes