Lebanese is one of my favourites cuisines in the world. I have not been to Lebanon yet, but there is a new London restaurant where I can taste authentic flavours of Lebanon: Abd el Wahab recently opened in Belgravia and my contributor Adrienne Fung wrote a glowing review of the new menu for Mondomulia readers.
Last month, one of the most celebrated Lebanese restaurants outside the Middle East opened its doors for the first time here in London. Abd el Wahab, named after the street where it first opened in Beirut, also has restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The restaurant’s reputation was built on delicious, elevated Lebanese cuisine served in an opulent setting. It comes as no surprise then, that Belgravia was chosen as the perfect location for Abd el Wahab’s London outpost.
I had the privilege of visiting Abd el Wahab during a press launch event to see what all the hype was about. The restaurant décor is clean and elegant with beautiful Middle Eastern accents. You certainly won’t stumble upon a Lebanese restaurant with a similar level of sophistication on Edgware Road. From the stylish bar to the outdoor terrace, the team behind Abd el Wahab shows clear attention to detail and affinity for modern luxury.
Now to the food: is it really as good as they say? The simple answer is yes. Abd el Wahab’s Executive Chef Kamil Bouloot prides himself on authenticity, ensuring that the dishes served in London are no different than those served in Beirut. I haven’t been to the restaurant’s Beirut outpost so I can’t confirm this is the case for certain, but some of the patrons at my table had dined at the original Beirut location numerous times and proudly claimed that their meal in Belgravia felt nostalgically familiar. The one key difference between London and Beirut was that, instead of a warm and balmy heat, we had snow outside.
The meal began with an impressive spread of hot and cold mezze, salads and generous platters of pickled vegetables and olives. What to start with first? All the colours, textures, smells, and flavours made for sensory overload. The creamy hummus was silky smooth, only made better paired with homemade pitas served fluffy and warm. We were told not to fill up on the mezze, but after a few bites we knew those would be difficult instructions to follow.
The moutabal dip made of smoky aubergine and tahini was equally addictive. We also loved the fattoush salad of mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, lemon juice, sumac, pomegranate molasses, and toasted flatbread. You could taste the quality in the fresh ingredients. The flavour of each vegetable was pronounced and bright, complemented perfectly by the acid from the lemon and sweet pomegranate. I also loved the savoury cheese rolls – tangy cheese encased in a crisp wrapper.
Surely we couldn’t be expected to eat more but as I was quickly reminded, this was only the mezze and more was yet to come.
One of Abd el Wahab’s specialties are the mixed grilled platters. We tried chicken taouk, tender chunks of chicken marinated in lemon, yoghurt and garlic then grilled to perfection. The beautiful char flavour from the grill adds a nice smoky element.
We also feasted on grilled lamb cutlets and kofta kebabs made of groundmeat mixed with delicious herbs and spices. There’s often a love hate relationship with lamb where some find the taste to be too gamey, however those on the fence should give this version a try. The way the meat is marinated and then grilled over hot coals gives it a delicious, aromatic flavour full of spice.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed the dishes we tried at Abd el Wahab’s new London restaurant.
Abd el Wahab offers a comprehensive wine list including many local Lebanese wines, another unique element setting this restaurant apart. Their refined approach to Lebanese cuisine and sophisticated dining area make it the ideal destination for client dinners as well as a romantic night out.
Try not to fill up on the mezze starters – or do because all the mezze are excellent – and be sure to finish your meal with some Baklava and a cup of Arabic coffee.
Disclaimer: Adrienne was a guest of the restaurant. All her views are her own.
Image Copyright @ Abd el Wahab