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Berber & Q Shawarma Bar
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar
Fri, 28/10/2016 - 11:32
Published:27 October, 2016
by TOM MOGGACH
THE golden ale served at Shawarma Bar is food fashion in a glass. The bespoke beer is crafted by a microbrewery in Hackney, who infuse it with trendy Middle Eastern flavours – sumac, za’atar and orange.
It’s then sold here at Shawarma Bar, a new opening in bustling Exmouth Market.
This buzzy bar and restaurant is an offshoot of Berber & Q, a wildly popular place under a railway arch in Haggerston that specialises in grilled and smoked meats.
From past experience, their expansion into Exmouth Market could prove something of a gamble.
At first sight, this street seems a solid bet for restaurateurs, with heavy footfall and reputation as perhaps the best destination in north London for a tasty night out.
But there’s a vicious churn of new openings which go under in competition with established rivals such as Moro, Morito, Caravan and Santore.
Shawarma Bar, however, seems to be more than holding its own.
It was packed on the night we visited. We felt lucky to nab two seats at the bar.
Inside, this is a warm, sexy space, glowing with wood and bronze. There’s a handful of small wooden tables to the left of the bar.
High above, a tall blackboard is chalked up in wild style with dishes and arty doodles.
Step upstairs, past shelves of trailing plants in clay pots, and you’ll find a backroom with larger tables.
The menu here is deliriously tempting and modelled loosely on the best casual eateries in Tel Aviv.
If you’re in a sharing mood then head for the £5 mezze, such as blackened aubergine with chilli and anchovy, or labneh (thick strained yoghurt) with pistachio and dill.
More substantial are the pillowy soft pitta breads, around £8, filled with smoked brisket, lamb kofta or lamb shawarma.
Cauliflower with red onion and green chilli is a veggie alternative.
These meats are also served with rice, lentils and crisp onions. Or gorge on full plates of lamb shawarma or rotisserie chicken, £16-24.
The drinks are imaginative, too. Non-alcoholic choices include pomegranate spritzer or orange blossom iced tea.
Cocktails bear intriguing names such as the “Spy from Cairo”, “Pashmina Afghan” or “Dirty Sultan”.
We loved the food without exception. Mesabahah is my new obsession – a dish that’s a sublime, subtle riff on everyday hummus. It’s looser in texture, with a swirl of tahini and olive oil, a hit of chopped parsley and whole chickpeas for added bite. Scooped up with their warm chollah bread, it’s a revelation.
Beetroot Salatim revealed ingenious flavours – grated beetroot with a lift of orange and the crunch of walnuts.
The slow roast lamb in pitta was beyond tender, with a whack of harissa for added punch.
Pudding was a Cardamom Malabi (£5) – similar to a panna cotta and topped with flaked pistachios and rose petals.
After the beer, we sipped unusual orange wines from Georgia. Make no mistake – Shawarma Bar is an exotic, exhilarating place to eat out.
BERBER & Q SHAWARMA BAR
46 Exmouth Market, EC1R
020 7837 1726