Restaurant Review: Yalla Yalla (Soho, London)

This review was first published online at WJ London. All words are my own.

Fast, cheap and addictive – it’s no wonder Yalla Yalla is Soho’s best kept secret. Hidden down an old side street in the heart of London, the bright yellow walls of this little Lebanese cafe/restaurant are immediately inviting and, even on a rainy day in February, the two tables out front have had to be put to good use – the place is heaving.

The Lebanese menu is designed to share and, crammed around a large wooden bench, it’s difficult to do anything else. We order a selection of mezze and grills for the table, all freshly prepared and served in the order they’re cooked. Luckily no one’s left waiting and the plates arrive quickly, warmly greeted by our hordes of greedy hands reaching over to try something new. Chicken Rakakat (deep fried pastry filled with marinated chicken, garlic, shallots and harissa) and Sawda Djej (sauteed chicken livers with garlic and pomegranate molasses) are equally moreish and unusual – Sawda Djej making it into Time Out’s Top 100 Dishes in 2012 – but it’s the vegetarian dishes that really stand out. Manaee’sh cheese (baked flat pastry with sesame seeds) tears open to reveal gooey halloumi and even their simple hummus is unexpectedly irresistible and impossible not to slather onto pretty much everything. Skewers of chargrilled lamb and chicken are disappointingly tough and chewy but skip back to the vegetarian platter and you’ll have no trouble going meat-free for the day. The tabbouleh and falafel are as good as middle eastern cuisine can get and even the salads don’t seem like a compromise slicked with sumac, apple vinegar and olive oil. Don’t scrimp on pitta bread and be sure to mop up the spiced vermicelli rice and sauces with your fingers, this is no place for dignities and such manners will only mean you miss out on all the fun.

With only 28 seats at their restaurant in Green’s Court, in 2010 the owners (Jad and Aga) responded to popular demand and opened a second branch on Winsley Street, just north of Oxford Circus. ‘Yalla’ means ‘Hurry Up!’ in Arabic and this fast-food concept is a welcome addition to the other local offerings with a whole lot more charm and considerably better flavour.

1 Green’s Ct, London W1F 0HA
020 7287 7663

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