Whether it’s a grab-and-go falafel wrap at lunchtime or a long mezze dinner with friends, Lebanese food suits almost any dining occasion. From establishments that have been running for over 30 years to hole-in-the-wall hidden gems, these are the best Lebanese restaurants in town.
Patisserie, Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$
Family-run with friendly service, Orjowan is always an inviting place to eat and thanks to their generous portions, you never leave feeling hungry. With everything from stuffed baby aubergines to spicy sojok sausage to lamb and pine nut pastries, you could quite easily order from the hot and cold mezze sections alone, although the lamb skewers are also excellent and pair well with one of their Lebanese wines.
Once you step inside Mes Amis you’ll realise how much stuff it’s possible to find inside a one-room restaurant. This tiny place in Fulham is covered in beads, fans, instruments, embroidery and figurines, meaning that there is not a lot of space left for the kitchen. In fact it’s just a one-man set-up in there; owner James cooks everything himself from scratch, including tabbouleh, grilled prawns, fried cauliflower and meat skewers piled on rice and it all tastes great.
Al Waha has garnered many devoted diners over the years, food critics amongst them, by maintaining a consistently high standard of cookery. With white tablecloths and lots of greenery, it’s a smart restaurant but doesn’t ever feel stiff, especially once the food starts coming out. Their moutabel (like baba ganoush) is one of the best in town and their grilled meats are always tender. If you’re after something stronger than wine, you can pick your poison from a selection of arak, a traditional anise-flavoured spirit made from grapes.
After starting with a small café in Soho in 2008, the Yalla Yalla empire expanded with a second site opening in 2010. The large wooden tables combined with black and yellow accents sets Yalla Yalla apart from more traditional Lebanese restaurants but the flavours are definitely authentic. The sawda djej – chicken livers with garlic and pomegranate molasses – is one of their signature dishes and worth savouring, although there are wraps and sweets ready to go at the counter if you can’t sit in.
Restaurant, Bar, Diner, Middle Eastern, Turkish, $$$
Courtesy of Arabica Bar & Kitchen
Arabica is a Levantine rather than solely Lebanese restaurant, so you’ll see Armenian lahmacun, Turkish muhummara and aubergine and cauliflower magloubeh with Eygptian rice sitting alongside fattoush, kibbeh, and falafel. Likewise, bottles from Cyprus, Syria and Israel appear next to Lebanese wines on the list. It’s all so fresh and vibrant and the restaurant has a wonderfully convivial atmosphere, no doubt thanks to its location inside Borough Market. They even have a cart that serves up shawarma, falafel and pastries on market days so you can still get a taste of Arabica without needing a table.
A meal at Ishbilia will set you back more than at most of the other Lebanese restaurants in London – that’s the Knightsbridge address for you – yet there is little to fault when it comes to the quality of the food. The menu is huge with over six types of hummous and a variety of lamb kafta, so you definitely get spoiled for choice. Ishbilia also puts on a different daily special, like sapanekh (spinach stew topped with lamb) or sayadieh (baked cod on spiced rice, topped with mixed nuts and hot tahini sauce), which you don’t see at many other restaurants, making it worth the extra expense.
Maroush first opened on Edgware Road in 1981 and over the next three decades it has grown into a chain of sites scattered across West London, including Ranoush Juice, Beirut Express and Maroush Bakehouse. The emphasis has always been on quality ingredients – they cook with meat from their own butchers – and traditional recipes, from lamb tongues in lemon and olive oil to Lebanese milk pudding. The original Maroush also hosts live music and belly dancing, so you can be sure of a lively atmosphere and late night fun.