Bubala is a fast-paced, achingly hip vegetarian restaurant which takes its inspiration from the complex flavours and textures of the Middle East.
Taking over the space where Indian restaurant Gul & Sepoy once stood, Bubala’s dining room is a tightly packed space with enough room for only around 30 diners. The interiors are stripped back, featuring the obligatory trendy restaurant hallmarks of potted plants, rickety wooden furniture and bare plaster walls. The format of the menu also aligns itself with current trends, with the food offering designed to share and dishes arriving at the table as and when they are ready.
While the menus at some vegetarian restaurants can be bland or restricted, we have to admit that the bold flavours on show at Bubala meant we barely even noticed that we’d gone a whole dinner without any meat.
Highlights from our visit included thick slices of fried aubergine which were slicked with a luminous green zhough that revealed lively notes of chilli and coriander, as well as a vibrant fattoush salad that was topped with feta crumble and crunchy shavings of kadaif (a noodle-like pastry that’s native to the Middle East).
Potato latkes were another stand-out, although these turned out not to really be latkes at all, but instead confit layered potatoes, pressed together in a dense block. This dish has popped up on several London menus in recent years, but Bubala’s crisp, golden versions have a trump card in the shape of the devilishly good garlic sauce they’re served with, which conjures up images of 2am feasting in kebab shops.
The staff at Bubala are sweet-natured and knowledgeable, although diners who are accustomed to Middle Eastern cuisine could find their ‘do you understand the menu?’ style of questioning a little patronising. On the drinks side of things, there’s a list of mainly European wines and three peppy cocktails to choose from (think along the lines of a Plum Spritz), while desserts include coconut sorbet and rich salted caramel truffles.
Fun, keenly priced and full of cool, young Londoners, Bubala is certainly one to watch.