Le Bab — London, UK
The sheer diversity of London’s dining scene continues to defy expectations, as smaller, tightly-run ventures serving microcosms of global cuisine continue to come online. In the kitchen are usually chefs with impressive credentials, and anxious to leave the comfort of grand, five-star establishments to strike out on their own in less conventional settings.
Case in point is Le Bab, a small, brash, noisy nook on the top floor of the buzzing Kingly Court complex of small eateries, masseurs and yoga boutiques. Designer Angus Buchanan literally didn’t have much room to work with – an entire wall opens out into the central courtyard, while the kitchen and open grill, flanked by concrete and copper-tipped bar counter, takes up another corner chunk.
The square Middle-Eastern wall tiles, if not the restaurant’s name, though, are a dead giveaway to the menu – a series of interpretive takes on the kebab. Manuel Canales Garces and Angus Bell, respectively the sous chef and chef de partie of Le Gavroche, no less, work with organic vegetables, free-range meat and home-made bread and pickles.
The result is imaginative with rarely a dull moment as one small plate after the other emerges from the kitchen – the familiar, reimagined with bright results. Paneer kebabs are accented with beetroot puree, pickled rainbow chard stem and curry mayo. Lincolnshire endives spiced with sumac share the plate with Iranian pomegranate and a shallot dressing, while a kofte features spiced date brown sauce.
Wash it all down with an unexpectedly inventive round of tipples. If the craft beers don’t tempt, perhaps the house cocktail of spiced rum, or the Laphroaig smoky sour laced with mezcal might.