Us Brits, we’re yet to perfect the fluffiest yet crispiest falafel. What we’re often served up, or attempt to make ourselves, is dry, overcooked to the point of burnt, or far too stodgy that you have to chug a gallon of water to help gulp it down. One restaurant that’s paving the way to London’s brimming falafel scene and Middle Eastern cuisine is Arabica.
I’m sure we can all agree after the houmous salmonella scandal we’ve all been left a little skeptical of the delicious dip we’d all grown to know and love, but venture a little further out from your local superstore to King’s Cross and Arabica’s new outpost will set the record straight and reignite your one true love. That was certainly the case for me when I hopped over on a chilly Autumnal evening to try it all out.
Driven by a love for the food that paves the streets of the Levent, the valleys of Jordan and the sun-kissed oceans of the Mediterranean, Arabica is a foodie hotspot for any worshippers of meze delicacies and deliciousness.
Just a short stroll up from the miscellaneous Coal Drops Yard and the student adorn Granary Square, you’ll find yourself battling through the never ending queue of ravenous guests pushing and shoving themselves into their beloved Dishoom before finding yourself at Arabica’s new outpost.
Despite only opening a few weeks before the restaurant was bustling with hangry business workers, arty university students dining with their parents and solo diners feasting until their heart was content at the counter side.
If sharing style dining gets you going then Arabica’s meze selection of hot and cold offerings will be sure to get your heart racing. On the chilly Tuesday night that it was, my partner and I opted for a selection of both in an attempt to warm up our cockles while still indulging in lashings of houmous and pita bread.
With a hefty selection of eight lavish dips to choose from, we opted for the houmous KX, toppled with sweet peppers, red chilli, parsley, garlic and a healthy glug of hearty olive oil. If you’re after a dip full of chunky chickpeas and bite, this will be sure to satisfy. It’s flavour was simple but delightful with tahini and a zap of lemon punching through with each bite. The second dip we lapped up with our piping hot homemade pita bread was the Muhammara, a combination of blitzed roast red pepper with toasted walnuts and Libyan-style harissa.
The pièce de résistance was of course the warm Beiruti falafel bites served on a bed of pickles and fermented chilli tarator. You can forget the falafels distributed at every street food vendor and local superstore because if your in need of a fried, semi healthy protein hit, look no further than Arabica. These were perfectly crispy on the outer layer and yet smooth and full of flavour as you crunch into the centre. Again on the slightly chunkier chickpea side but they honestly were mouth-sized bites of deliciousness if you ask me.
Swiftly onto the “main” course (I say main because we’d opted for a fairly small table and we ordered too many dishes for it to come out at once…) and we were served up a Turkish style pizza. We opted for the babaganoush man’ousheh which supplemented the oozy cheese you’re used chomping your way through on a pizza for a bed of roasted smoked aubergine topped with layers of tahini, herbs, walnuts and pomegranate. Although on the slightly saltier side, the Lebanese flatbread was a nice light addition to the carb heavy sides we ordered to go alongside. The mujardarah was a healthy portion of basmati rice with brown lentils and crispy onions, while the batata harra, a combo of fried potatoes with sautéed peppers, onion, garlic, chilli and fresh coriander, fulfilled any fried potato craving you’ve got going on.
All of which was washed down with a steady flow of punchy pomegranate margaritas and accompanied by attentive staff, our evening came to a close and we wandered away padded full of Middle Eastern flavours lingering in our mind.