Berber & Q’s classier, on-trend older brother has left home and picked the most achingly cool of London locations - Lonsdale Road in Queen’s Park. Frankly, as soon as you walk in the door the signs are good - there’s a rousing atmosphere in the packed dining room, and the waft of smokey foods is a sign of good things to come.
The team has managed to do a lot with a little, regarding the space. Hints of the building's industrial skeleton poke out in places, but they’ve been smartly disguised under hanging ferns and behind plant pots. The brick and tile counter provides nice contrast with a long wooden banqueting table in the centre of the dining room, and low-hanging terracotta lamps set the mood. As for the organic house soundtrack, well, your mileage will vary on that one, but it does match the buzzy atmosphere.
There’s lots to love about the food too. Sit at the open kitchen counter and you can admire the procession of flatbreads heading in and out of the oven, and gaze at slow-roasting chickens on the grill. Our spiced lamb flatbread - topped liberally with Aleppo chilli and sumac yoghurt - was utterly delicious, whilst a mushroom one, though a tad doughy by comparison, was also nicely balanced with salty Manouri cheese and the tang of creme fraiche.
These aren’t even the best things on the menu. We’ll add our voice to the list of those celebrating the absolutely mesmerising slow-grilled urfa chilli chicken with pomegranate molasses - an instant classic. The harissa-grilled prawns with ‘nduja butter are sensational too, leaving the sort of pan sediment that will have you scraping at the cast iron dish with a spoon.
So, what’s not to like? Well, we expected much from a grilled hispi cabbage dish but it fell a bit flat for us, and the sweets felt like an afterthought. But if Carmel upgrades its dessert game? This could be one of London's very best.