Lebanese food; let us count the ways we love you. With a thrilling mix of cultural and foodie influences from the Ottomans, Persia and various neighbouring countries (Israel, Syria, Jordan) this eastern Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most interesting around.
Piles of mezze dishes, beautiful breads and an insistence on packing fresh vegetables, herbs and spices (food is spiced though rarely spicy) into everything, means that there is something for everyone when it comes to Lebanese food. There's no need to head blindly down Edgware Road hoping for something decent; we’ve got it covered with the best places to chow down on tabbouleh, kebabs and hummus in town.
A modern, and actually pretty industrial take on the Arabian theme, Arabica in Borough Market is a pleasing mish mash of cuisines from the Levant that serves up some lovely Lebanese delights. Of course, there’s falafel, fattoush and all the usual, but there are also delicious 7-spiced chicken wings to be had, using some of the best free range slow grown poultry the nearby stallholders can offer. The Lebanese wines are good too – plus there’s outside space. Read our full review here.
Arabica, 3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, SE1 9AF
Dining in the vicinity of Belgravia was never going to be cheap, so be prepared to pay around £7.50-£9 per mezze dish at Ishbilia. Don't let the price put you off, as each dish is extremely fresh and beautifully seasoned. There’s a dazzling array of choice (over 100 dishes) with highlights such as Habrah Nayeh (lamb tartare with garlic), Beirut style hummus which is topped with fava beans; and Makdous, aka baby aubergines stuffed with walnuts, herbs and garlic with the obligatory – and excellent – olive oil and lemon. And that’s just the mezze section. The crowd here is mostly moneyed expats and Middle Eastern tourists, and for good reason; a friend’s Syrian father says this is his favourite Middle Eastern haunt in town.
Ishbilia, 8-9 William Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 9HL
This Lebanese old timer (est. 1981) is probably one of your best bets on Edgware Road. It’s big, brash and entertaining with live music and traditional belly dancing most evenings, plus the food is consistently good. There are several other branches now, but this is the original and the best Maroush, with large groups turning up for the atmosphere and traditional charcoal grilled kebabs and delectable cheesy pastries alike. Very reasonably priced too.
Various London locations, see website for details
Eating at any of the Comptoir Libanais café-restaurants is a bit like being in a very friendly, very tasty souk. The menu offers a broad spectrum of traditional Lebanese foods all the way up to more continental options that have been given a Levantine twist. We love their breakfasts, with the feta, avocado, tomato and olives on brioche being given an Eastern makeover with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and fresh herbs. The Comptoir full breakfast featuring a decent Armenian sausage is also worth a look, and of course there are a few shakshuka dishes too. Lunch and dinner are just as good, with the option to take away your meal of choice. Great for veggies and pretty healthy to boot.
Eight London locations, see website for details
Both Soho locations of this cheap and cheerful Beirut street food gem tend to be bustling and buzzy thanks to their popularity with local office workers. There is a counter serving pre-filled wraps to take away, but if you can, grab a pew and order up some mezze followed by a plate of shawarma (traditional marinated chicken or lamb, thinly sliced) and attempt to exercise restraint when it comes to the delicious pitta, which is a steal. Make sure you get some of their signature Sawda Djej too – marinated chicken livers served hot, sticky and sweet with garlic and pomegranate molasses. The counter also boasts a fine array of traditional Arabian sweets and tarts, so leave some room.
Yalla Yalla, 12 Winsley Street, W1W 8HQ and 1 Green’s Court, W1F 0HA
Many cite Al Waha as the best Lebanese – nay, Middle Eastern – restaurant in London, with customers and critics alike wowed by the smokey moutabel (a kind of spicier baba ghanoush), perfect lamb grills and well made kibbeh (the national dish of Lebanon, a pounded paste of lamb and bulgur wheat). Prices are around £5-£6 per mezza and about £12-£14 for mains such as the traditional Faruj Mussahab — grilled baby chicken with garlic sauce and vegetables. There’s also a great value lunch menu where £13.50 will score you a fantastic mezze platter with all the big names: hummus, tabbouleh, moutabel, kibbeh, pastries, the lot.
Al Waha, 75 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UL