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When the first Yalla Yalla was thrust upon London’s burgeoning dining scene, it was like a bolt from the heavens – at last, a restaurant serving Middle Eastern food that didn’t feel like a Middle Eastern restaurant. No ear-piercing music, novelty acts or brusque service – instead the small café-style dining space was intimate, decked out in an eye-catching yellow and black design and with hand-written boards and a beautifully concise menu, captured the zeitgeist and desire for something with all the flavour with none of the fuss.
The menu is beautifully simple: mezze to share, and mains. All mezze are served with bread and olives, and span the gamut of favourites like baba ganoush, fattoush salad (fried bread salad – delicious) and moreish falafel, though diners are encouraged to explore other options on the menu.
The kibbe nayya (lamb tartare with spiced cracked wheat and fresh herbs) is a revelation, while a dish of chicken livers and djej had masses of flavour.
The majority of mains consist of high-quality ingredients grilled and garnished simply – so we’re talking favourites like lamb, chicken and seabass - and the team knows well enough to leave the food alone to let the ingredients do the talking. More interesting items are available, like a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with seven-spiced rice – check the specials boards or ask the servers for what’s good that day.
Prices are far lower than expected for such finesse and expertise in the preparation of dishes, and you can happily dine for anywhere between £10-20. Desserts, of course, are predominantly Lebanese, with concessions to the chocolate lovers of the capital. A selection of tarts, ice cream and Lebanese desserts round out an impressive selection.
Opening times: Monday - Friday: 10:00 – 23:30, Saturday: 11:00 – 23:00