Following the success of Berber & Q Grill House, Josh Katz & Mattia Bianchi will open their second restaurant, Berber & Q Shawarma Bar at 46 Exmouth Market this June. The new restaurant will specialise in shawarma, slow-cooked on a rotating spit over hot coals alongside Middle Eastern cocktails, wine and beer.
Josh (previously at Ottolenghi, Galvin Bistrot Deluxe and Zest) will take influence for Shawarma Bar from all over – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, and closer to home, the shawarma houses of Golders Green he visited as a schoolboy growing up in North London. ‘We started experimenting with shawarma at the Grill House. It’s a dish that has huge nostalgic value for me, and if done properly deserves it’s own platform to shine, I’ve eaten shawarma all over the world; from Tel Aviv where it’s served in pita, to discovering it’s roots in Jordan and versions in Istanbul. Back in the UK shawarma can get a bad rap – the ‘elephant leg’ of grey meat, limp lettuce and cloying chilli sauce. I hope Shawarma Bar will bring this wonderful, and eclectic dish to a new level with fresh, high quality ingredients’ says chef and co-founder, Josh Katz.
Lamb shawarma will lead a brand new menu, with Middle Eastern style Rotisserie Chicken also central to the offering. Sold as plates, both will be served with herb salad, gem leaves, green chilli, grated tomato, tahini and sumac onions. Guests are encouraged to make wraps with the meat and condiments, or eat as they please. Optional extras include fresh grilled Pita, Confit Potatoes or individual Pickle Jars . Shawarma Bar will also offer sides such as Blackened Aubergine, Mesabaha or Coal-baked Sweet Potato.
Mejaderah, a Middle Eastern rice and lentils dish will benefit from the juices of the spit, and form the basis of Shawarma Bar’s Bowls, topped with Lamb Shawarma, harissa and anchovy or, in homage to Berber & Q’s signature vegetable dish, Cauliflower Shawarma with golden sultana, rose and pine nuts. For dessert, there will be Ice Cream pita sandwiches, with tahini soft-serve and caramelised banana.
Josh has also created a selection of Pitas, inspired by the market places of Tel Aviv, stuffed with Chicken, Lamb, Slow-braised Beef Short Rib Shpondra or a Jerusalem Grill along with a choice of house-made sauces; Yemenite Dynamite, Tahina, and Toum. A take-away hatch serving Shawarma Bar’s Pitas to Exmouth Market will open from 11am daily.
Co-founder, Mattia Bianchi will oversee the front of house and drinks offering, to include Middle Eastern frozen slush cocktails and Berber & Q’s Golden on draught, made with Thyme, Za’atar, Sumac and orange zest, served in growlers. ‘Shawarma Bar will continue Berber & Q’s relaxed and informal vibe, a place to celebrate good company and down-to-earth eating and drinking. Exmouth Market seemed a fitting location for our second restaurant too, we’re lucky to be in the company of many of great restaurants and chefs’ says Mattia.
Occupying a 40 cover site on Exmouth Market, Shawarma Bar’s interiors will be designed by Phoebe Lewis at Lewis Cook Design. Enormous, bi-fold windows will open out onto the Market and feature a takeaway hatch. Inside, a bar lined with yellow Zellige tiles will stretch half of the space, overhung with greenery, tangles of dried chilli and garlic and shelves stocked with fresh produce and spices.
Seating will comprise a mixture of tan leather-clad bar stools and steel framed low stools, tucked under reclaimed wood tables. Distressed metro tiles will provide a backdrop to the bar, which will come to a finish at the restaurant’s open kitchen, framed with panels of contrasting metal mesh. A corridor lined with vintage photography, posters and battered street signs from the Middle East will lead to a second dining room, housing an enormous antique mirror.
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