- The Gist: Lebanese food, but with a particular mission to elevate the humble kebab
- The Chef: Manu Canales
- Location: 4 Mercer Walk, London WC2H 9FA
- Food in 5 words: Seasonal, handmade and world flavours
- See more: www.eatlebab.com
How did we get here?
It started in 2016 with Le Bab in Soho, which aimed to drive a ‘kebab renaissance’ in the capital. Now, founders Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet are opening a new modern kebab restaurant called Maison Bab in Covent Garden this September.
At Le Bab, the kebabs are relatively safe: falafel, BBQ paneer, pork shawarma, corn-fed chicken and lamb. With Maison Bab, world flavours are being explored more heavily and vegan kebabs are also a big thing.
The site will also include a 10-seater fine dining restaurant called Kebab Queen, which will serve a six-course kebab-centric tasting menu and is being driven by executive chef Manu Canales, who was previously sous chef at the two-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche.
What’s different about it?
More rustic, bolder flavours will drive the kebabs at Covent Garden, compared to its Soho sister site. The eight-strong kebab menu will sit alongside a selection of starter dishes, manoushe, sides and dessert options, with ingredients retaining Le Bab’s focus on quality, seasonality and provenance.
Starters include doner beignet (a French deep-fried pastry) and an Indo-Iranian mutton curry, while house-made Lebanese pizza continues to grow in London as Maison Bab follows in the footsteps of Paramount Lebanese Kitchen and The Lebanese Bakery, with its own range of manoushe toppings such as Yorkshire lamb, Sussex labneh, chilli and zaatar. The restaurant’s kebabs will continue to be handmade from scratch with flatbreads made in-house in a custom-designed oven, using focaccia-style dough.
Tozer said Maison Bab represents a completely new concept. “We love Le Bab, and wouldn’t change it for the world. But at Maison Bab we’ll be offering something punchier, bolder and more surprising. We’ve been developing this concept for almost two years now, so we’re incredibly excited to unveil what we’ve been working on,” he explains.
“Kebabs offer a huge breadth of culinary scope, and this restaurant will celebrate that diversity. The philosophy on quality ingredients will stay the same, but diners will be in for a very different experience. We are really excited about some new vegan ‘hero dishes’ on the menu at Maison Bab… We hope to make this one of the best kebab houses in the world, adding to London’s already incredible and diverse restaurant scene.”
You’ve got to try…
The vegan-friendly miso celeriac shish with pickled crispy onions and toum (a traditional Lebanese garlic sauce).
Interestingly, veggie shish is something some of the world’s top chefs have been trying to perfect. Noma’s Rene Redzepi posted his celeriac and truffle shawarma on Instagram back in July, which featured as one of the restaurant’s vegetarian main courses. It was a project he had been working on for two years, with texture a key challenge. In the Instagram post of his shawarma, he said: “So many hours of prep work on this: slicing, marinating, slowly cooking until sweet, golden and caramelised.”
New York chef Dan Barber from Blue Hill Restaurant, who featured on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, featured a video on Instagram where he was carving a caraflex cabbage. He declared a veggie shawarma showdown was on with Redzepi.
From beginnings in America and Copenhagen, it looks like veggie sharwarma has now landed in London.
Sparkie also likes…
Raclette shawarma, a nod to the Swiss-based dish involving semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that is usually heated and scraped off. Also, the Drunken iskender chicken shish, a Turkish speciality that includes tomato sauce and melted butter.
You want to go posh with your kebabs (but not in a bad way).