The Arabica Spice Company has been around for 14 years, their restaurant in Borough Market had only been opened in a week when we went down to visit and despite no reviews having been published at that time, it was already packed on a Monday. So far so good.
The restaurant features a mix of simple wooden tables or turquoise leather booths, exposed brick walls, arched ceilings, low lighting and they can open up the front which in this heat is life-saving. As the website says the restaurant is an ‘epicurean exploration’ of The Levant, and the menu which is tapas –style heavily features spiced lamb, chicken, lentils, bulgur wheat, dips, olives and spinach and is broken up into 9 categories including nibbles, dips, raw/cured and charcoal – there is so much to try that you’ll have to visit at least twice.
We were told to order 3-5 dishes per person, but unless you are absolutely starving and haven’t eaten in a week, which let’s be honest is unlikely, I would say choose 5 dishes between two. Definitely order the Arabica spiced popcorn, it arrives in a paper bag and puts any other sort of popcorn you’ve had to shame, it isn’t spicy but it is wonderful. Cacik – a dip not unlike tahini just creamier, arrived with warm flat bread to mop it up and was delicious. From the raw/cured section it has to be the heavenly light Kibbeh Nayeh (Lebanese lamb and beef tartare, olive oil, red mustard leaves, tropea, onion and mint). Crispy whitebait was good but after the Kibbeh Nayeh it was always going to have a hard time to living up to it, equally the spinach kibbeh was a little bland.
We were back onto a winner with the 3 cheese man’ousheh, a flatbread loaded with halloumi, akawi and Westcombe ricotta, like the popcorn you would be missing out if you didn’t order this. We also recommend the mekanak (Lebanese lamb sausages) and the Mjederah – warm lentil and bulgar wheat pilaf. If you can manage more round it off with a scoop of strawberry and rosewater gelato and a strong Turkish coffee.
Drinks wise they have a small cocktail list, don’t expect to your find your usual daiquiris or margaritas, they are so much better than that, they’re the sort you want to sip rather than neck back and regret when you miss your tube stop.. twice. Rania’s Spritz a mix of Aperol, ginger, rosewater, chilli, sea salt and Prosecco is a must. They’ve also banned Coca a cola in favour of proper non-alcoholic drinks like mulberry soda.
We left as more tables were filling up, their 14 years as a spice company has obviously gained Arabica a great reputation and their restaurant is the icing on the cake. Head there now.