In a city known for its’ gastronomic variety and innovation, London’s certainly not short of Middle Eastern restaurants in various guises; celebrating the – relatively unknown – but rich diversity inherent in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Fans of Arabic food – not to mention the peripheral treats that come with the food – need not automatically head to Edgware Road for a bite though.
‘Al Khayma’ – one of the latest additions to the hugely successful London Darbar property and events business – is now offering fans a refreshing departure from the tried and tested.
Located in Ilford, East London, the restaurant-cum-lounge is probably one of the best kept secrets in the increasingly vibrant East of London.
In keeping with its name – ‘The Tent’ in Arabic – the restaurant is a time capsule, transporting you to the middle of a desert and your very own boudoir: every surface, panel and corner is extravagantly and elaborately decorated. It’s a sensory assault of dark tones, fabrics and exquisitely carved occidental furnishings.
There are tables as well as private booths which provide an extremely snug and intimate space to enjoy an evening with friends.
The elaborate old world however co-exists harmoniously with the new as you can order from a very extensive and excellent list of excellent cocktails and mocktails including the ‘London Darbar Special’ (Vodka, Cranberry, Orange, Peach Schnapps and a Dash of Grenadine) and the divine and comforting ‘Nuts about Milk’ (Milk, Coconut, Honey, Almonds and Nutmeg).
The menu features the full range of Arabic fare but – in a nod to the restaurant’s owners – is tinged with Indian spices and influences. The food is conveniently divided into four main set menus: Vegetarian (£17.50 per person), Chicken (£22.50 per person), Lamb (£27.50 per person) and Sea Food (£32.50).
Whilst the prices might appear a tad high, it’s absolutely justified.
East set menu comes with a fantastic array of starters, mains and deserts. I plumped for the seafood menu. The portions are generous to say the least and you would be hard pressed to finish everything, particularly given the long list of starters.
My guest and I both loved the fragrant and earthy – not to mention, filling – lentil soup that was served in dainty little glass bowls.
A variety of seafood items – beautifully soft grilled salmon to reassuringly plump prawns – are served together with a signature Middle Eastern salad. The grilled salmon was particularly soft, the fork melting through the meat.
My guest enjoyed the Lamb menu which was even more gargantuan than mine; starters included excellent Kibbe (Deep fried balls of minced lamb) and a skewer of kebabs whilst the main was softly melting Lamb Tagine: a ‘Thing of Beauty’ according to him.
There’s something terrifically unique about the setting and the food at Al Khayma.
The old and the new: traditional Middle Eastern food lightly infused with Indian flavours served with modern and modish cocktails and artesian water from Norway.
All accompanied by a gyrating belly dancer.
A fusion of not only food but a range of other elements that make for a hugely enjoyable dining experience.
– Poonam Joshi