Bubala Soho rings the bell for the second instalment of the popular Middle Eastern restaurant, having enjoyed great success at its original Spitalfields site. This second, more central location is larger than its mother restaurant, although hordes of people occupying every seat in the house on our visit make it feel anything but spacious. We took it as a good sign though. The word that springs to mind is buzzy, a feeling augmented by the open kitchen at the far end of the dining room, with waiters shuffling platters of small plates from pass to people all evening.
Bubala’s menu is entirely vegetarian and spans a catalogue of sharing plates in various, if slightly confusing, sizes. Our uber-friendly waiters ensure the meal is well paced though, by delivering dishes to our table in a considered order. We began with toasted challah and aerated pitta dunked in creamy pools of hummus and baba ghanoush, both of which offered welcome texture in the form of chunky garnishes. Two umami-rich oyster mushroom skewers were beautifully charred on the outside where the tamari marinade had caramelised slightly. Elsewhere, smacked cucumbers balanced subtle chilli heat with cooling tahini and provided a sprightly contrast to three hefty falafels encased in thick, deep-fried shells.
The dessert list includes short bites like chocolates and truffles, plus a deconstructed creation described as baklava with semifreddo. A floral-tinted slice of ice cream with nutty caramel and a shard of pastry was very good, if very sweet, although we’d probably skip it next time for another of their cocktails – try the Peach and Aperol Sour for something short, zippy and strong. The cherry on top is that plates start at £2.75 and don’t surpass £15, which means you can quite happily dine for £25-30 per head.
Bubala’s crowd-pleasing plates, infectious conviviality and laid-back, approachable dining experience make it a place we would confidently recommend to a friend.