Brunch on Saturday: Le Bab review: Do kebabs really need saving?
In this week’s Brunch on Saturday, Ibrahim Salha finds the humble kebab upgraded in a nice setting, while for those staying in it’s a mushroom, feta and kale crostini
At some point in the near future, every food you love will have had a gastro makeover. At least that’s the way it seems, particularly in London, where kebabs are subject to the same She’s All That-style revamp burgers and fried chicken experienced before them. Don’t like what you see and feel shameful eating it? That won’t be the case when you’re in a beautiful Soho restaurant, coerced into using a knife and fork to eat a shawarma.
As you might expect, Le Bab, which sits on the top floor of Kingly Court in Soho, is certainly on that end of the spectrum. It’s a lovely space, and one which really benefits from the few weeks of summer sunshine you can experience in London, if you’re especially lucky.
It’s particularly good for brunch, offered on the weekends. At first glance the menu doesn’t exactly scream brunch: it’s essentially the same as the regular offering of kebabs and mezze, with the only difference being you can go bottomless for £18 per person on spritzers (raspberry or elderflower) or prossecco. That’s brunch enough for me.
A taste of the adana kebab goes some way to explaining why they’ve chosen to scrap any ideas of pancakes or eggs benedict. Minced spiced lamb is cooked perfectly and topped with pea yoghurt, date puree and pickles and then wrapped in one of their flatbreads. It’s a beautiful – if difficult to handle – kebab. The quality of the British lamb shines through, which isn’t something you can often say about an adana. Is it better than Antepliler or Hala or Gokyuzu on Green Lanes? That’s debatable, and I’d probably lean towards “no””, although I wouldn’t turn down either. We’re talking very fine margins.
What is definitely better here than in most kebab restaurants is the offering for vegetarians. Sure, there’s the requisite falafel option, but there’s also a gorgeous paneer, surrounded by beetroot puree and curry mayo. It’s an Instagram-friendly mix of colours on the plate and the organic paneer acts as a brilliant vehicle for the bolder flavours.
Starters and sides also deserve your time. Choose from grilled cod cheeks, chicken nuggets, or beautiful bhajis, filled with lamb shoulder and beef shin, both cooked until you no longer need teeth to enjoy them. If you had to choose one thing to accompany your main, though? It would have to be the fries, complete with “fondue” – essentially a vat of melted cheese. They’re among London’s best chips and should not be missed.
The question I felt lingering, though, is do kebabs need saving? Call it a renaissance project, call them posh, or maybe even an attempt at reinvigorating another form of fast food; all of the language seems to lean towards an unspoken “shame” in enjoying kebabs. Maybe they do. “I’ve never eaten one sober,” is an all too common utterance when you mention them.
So, good on Le Bab for attempting to take a maligned food and turn it into something you can imagine eating for brunch with even your fussiest friends. And good on them for making them as delicious as they have. It’s an incredibly well-packaged concept, ready to roll out across the city, and maybe even further afield. Maybe kebabs don’t need saving, but they clearly benefit from a little TLC.
Le Bab: Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW; eatlebab.com; 020 7439 9222; open daily
Mushroom, kale and feta cheese crostini
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced (or 2 small)
30g kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
50g feta cheese, crumbled
2 slices of sourdough bread
2tbsp of olive oil
Rub the sourdough bread with half of the olive oil, season with a little salt and milled pepper and cook on a griddle pan until nice and crispy. If you don’t have a griddle pan just pop under the grill.
In a large frying pan, add the remaining olive oil and fry the sliced chestnut mushrooms with the garlic. Once soft and a nice golden colour is achieved, add the kale and cook until the kale has wilted. Season with salt and milled pepper.
Place the sourdough crostini on your plates. Spoon over the mushrooms and kale. Crumble over the feta cheese, chopped tomatoes and fresh oregano and serve with a little drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Recipe from justaddmushrooms.com