Eat this: Bubala, making veg appetising with Middle Eastern flavours

It's gone from pop-up to permanent site with the restaurant's founder keen to tap into the appetite for the cuisine.

16 September 2019
middle easternrestaurant openingrestaurantsveganvegetarianvegetables
  • The Gist: Plant-based dishes from the Middle East, inspired in particular by Tel Aviv
  • The Chef: Helen Graham
  • Location: 65 Commercial Street, London E1 6BD
  • Food in 5 words: Spicing up the veg scene
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How did we get here?

It started off with pop-ups and supper clubs across the capital, including at Berber & Q in Haggerston, Carousel in Marylebone and at Dalston bar Untitled. Now, the Middle Eastern vegetarian concept Bubala has found a permanent home, opening a 30-cover restaurant in Spitalfields.

Former Berber & Q general manager Marc Summers is the brain behind the business and will oversee the restaurant’s front-of-house operation, while head chef Helen Graham (previously of The Palomar, The Barbary and The Good Egg) is in charge of the kitchen.

What’s different about it?

While there are familiar eats on the menu like hummus and harissa, there are a number of dishes from the Middle East that aren't as well known in the UK. Plus, Bubala is drawing upon the plant-based dishes of Tel Aviv’s modern cafes to create more meat-free appeal.

The menu is made up of a selection of small plates designed for sharing, generally priced between £5 and £10. Some of these are straight up vegan, but others can also be adapted for this dietary requirement, including the hummus with burnt butter and pine nuts, pomegranate braised cabbage with tahini and hazelnut.

Other dishes include shitake and oyster mushroom skewers, soy, coriander seed and maple, freekeh, ras el hanout and celeriac and baby gem, orange blossom, Persian lime and hazelnut.

The name Bubala derives from a Yiddish term of endearment that loosely translates as 'darling' or 'sweetie,' and is often used by grandparents. It pays homage to Summers’ background, particularly as the restaurant’s location is mere metres away from the house his grandfather grew up in.

“I feel like there is such an appetite for Middle Eastern food in London; the flavour combinations and gentle spicing techniques are perfect to showcase vegetables and vegetarian cooking, and the sharing menu will be a great way for friends and family to come together over food, which is exactly the kind of place we want to be,” Summers said.

You’ve got to try…

Ful medames, an Egyptian stew made with fava beans, accompanied by lovage pesto, yoghurt and homemade malawach (traditional Yemeni flatbread).

Sparkie also likes…

The dish that combines salad and dessert: fattoush, fettle and kadaif. Fattoush is a salad that originated from Lebanon and is made with fried pieces of pitta, cucumber, radish and tomato, while kadaif is a dessert of shredded filo pastry.

Go if…

You want to make your five-a-day a more interesting experience.

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