2 March 2016

Feasting like a Boss at Berber & Q

Let's talk about shawarma baby
Let's talk about shawama and me
Flick, They Called It The Diamond Blog

I feel like I have spent a lot of time recently eating round Haggerston lately, but with so many good places cropping up who can blame me? No one. We've sampled the newly opened Chick 'n Sours, Duke's Brew and Que, and Berber and Q. Basically all the and's and q's. Coincidentally I have been to all these restaurants with my friend Louie, who is finally left London to go and live in New York after years of threatening to do so. 

Before he left, his one request (alongside going to Hawksmoor for breakfast, bowling, karaoke, being reckless at Club Propaganda [I had to draw the line somewhere, plus I hate clubbing]) was to visit Berber and Q. As huge lovers of Lebanese food, of course Dan and I said we'd accompany him, and by God am I glad we did. We were the kings of meat that day (vegetarians turn away now). 

First off, Berber and Q doesn't take reservations. I have mixed feelings about these types of restaurants because, you know, firstly the food is normally always incredible, but secondly, I hate waiting out in the cold especially now when it's bloody freezing. A lot of places have started just taking your number and giving you a call when the table's ready, I am a huge fan of this, this saves lives and prevents frostbite. Berber and Q doesn't seem to do this but it does have a little bar area where you can stand inside and on a weeknight, we only had to wait for a table for 30 minutes which is pretty darn good considering the food is (SPOILER ALERT) A M A Z I N G.

Inside it's like an old railway arch, with exposed brick walls and an arched ceiling. The glints of copper and gold, and definitely the Fez lampshades give it a Middle Eastern feel. Long communal tables make for good sharing seats and we got chatting to a German couple next to us, good job really because the food is messy and you're going to be sharing a lot more than that by the end as you tear into chunks of meat and pitta. Seated, the staff were super quick and friendly. We ordered a round of cocktails. Louie went for a Sarah Naarda, a gin based cocktail with hints of elderflower and violet, and very prominent lavender; it definitely wasn't to my tastes but he loved it. Dan opted for the Harissa Rose Mary, a deliciously spicy take on the Bloody Mary with real smokiness from the smoked vodka, yummy but definitely a pre dinner drink and not during because it became heavy with the food. Whereas I pretty much won with my Gal Gadot. Cucumber infused gin, watermelon, mint and rose syrup all the components shone although I could have left the watermelon out and been just as happy. Rather than order starters, which would probably have been sensible, we asked for all the food to be bought at once...not sensible.

Oh the food, just thinking about the lamb shawarma is making me salivate. We went for three different meats. The lamb shawarma, this was our absolute fave, was deliciously moist, rich and smokey and went so well with the garlic sauce (oh the garlic sauce, be still my, just, still beating heart). The smoked chicken thighs with apricot glaze and dukkah, was spicy and fruity, but compared to the lamb didn't hit the spot for me. The smoked short rib with date glaze syrup looked impressive as a huge hunk of meat bought to the table, the flavour was certainly spot on but the actual amount of meat on there was definitely deceptive (lots of bits were inedible due to being so caramelised) and as such it was a bit disappointing (especially when you consider the cost!). But the highlight, aside from the lamb, was the lamby juices that dropped onto the pittas beneath them. Oh they were glorious, we had to ask for more pita to soak up the goodness.
The sides were also great, dirty fried rice with sumac and barberries was something I remember eating and loving growing up, the crispy rice was just delicious and those little barberries burst in the mouth with lemony freshness. Having never been a big fan of hummus the boys ordered a plateful and I can honestly say this is the best plate of hummus I have had in my life. Creamy and oily but not claggy it was pure heaven. However, my rogue choice (that the boys vetoed but I ignored) of roast beets with whipped feta and saffron candied orange was the real star. I barely got a look in and definitely didn't get a photo as the boys dived in without me. It was so good. Earthy, sweet, salty, creamy, with a whole lot of texture, I dream about this dish a lot. In fact, I dream about Berber and Q, and the lamb pita, garlic sauce and beets constantly.
I adore Middle Eastern food (not all of it; I've had my fair share of lamb porridge as a child and I can tell you for free it was the single worst thing I've ever eaten...and been forced to eat...again...and again), and Berber and Q nailed the simplicity of it for me. I would 100% recommend visiting Berber and Q but stick to the lamb, drown it in garlic sauce and dip it all in a plate of hummus.
Where the hell did February go? One moment I was booking Louie's leaving breakfast at Hawksmoor (oh my Lord it was delicious) thinking that's so far away the next moment it's March and he's gone to the Big Apple. As Lou's been living with us on and off for the last month or so (his rent is paid in the form of doughnuts and cinnamon buns), it's been a bit strange coming home without him being there. Dan and I kind of got used to it, although it's super refreshing to have our own space again, it did make me miss having housemates (you know ones' where the emphasis is on the fact you're mates not that you live together with people you would never, ever, EVER socialise with otherwise). There is a Louie shaped hole in our hearts and sofa (mostly sofa - being mean to Louie is our coping mechanism as is hanging out with our good, made up, male friend Doug who I keep sending Louie messages about on I weird? Don't answer that). Anyway since Louie's gone, I have been making lots of plans with all my other friends (hi guys sorry I didn't speak to you in Feb, kidding), we're planning to go to Brighton at the end of March with some buddies, going to the theatre (sounds more sophisticated than saying I'm seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and hanging out with some blogging friends eating food this weekend (which I'm super excited about). Love a good food market. In addition if anyone has any restaurant recommendations, why have you not left a comment yet? Sort it out. Hope you all have a cracking week! 


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