Yalla Yalla is hidden down a little back alley just off Brewer Street, which of course means that it in the neighbouring doorway there’s a ‘Models Upstairs’ poster and a few lingering seedy men who aren’t in the area for the Beirut street food. Although it serves up main dishes, and will no doubt be just as crammed for dinner, it is much more of a lunch spot. The restaurant could be twice the size and there still wouldn’t be enough tables to meet the constant queues, so turning up at lunch it is a gamble whether you’ll get seated. To compensate it also offers a takeaway service, and this comes at the annoyance of most of the diners in there as the tables are already cramped in closely together so having the added chaos of a queue pushing to order a takeaway from the counter makes it all a bit hectic. If you’re in one of the doorway tables like we were then you will get knocked and constantly be squeezing your chair in. The result of this is that the staff can get flustered and on a couple of occasions they came across as a little rude to people who presumed they could just take a seat, and were promptly ordered outside to wait their turn. But for those of us who were smugly seated, it all made for eventful watching. This bustle is all part of the vibe and it’s hardly the place you come to for a long relaxed lunch.
Once we were finally settled we had to prompt the waitress we were ready to order- at one point I went up to the counter assuming you ordered there, but was told to sit back down, and then waited another five minutes to order. The menu is made up of small plates to share, all reasonably priced, and it was hard to choose because they all sounded so appetising.
We went for baba ghannouj with tahini and lemon juice, and pomegranate seeds. It was tangy and mopped up quickly with the fresh pita. Then came samboussek lahme- deep fried balls of pastry filled with spiced lamb, onion comfit and roasted pine nuts, that were perfect crispy balls packed with flavour. Already the food had made up for the service.
Then came soujoc- spicy sausages with tomato, parsley and lemon juice. This was the best dish; the acid from the lemon juice and tomatoes really balancing the spice of the sausage and giving it a fresh lift. Next was the sawda djej (try and pronounce that)- chicken livers with garlic and pomegranate molasses. We ordered it only because the menu told us it was one of Time Out’s 100 best London dishes. I don’t even like chicken livers so it was great marketing on their part. The dish had a deep flavour that was brought out by the sweetness of the molasses.
As if we weren’t already full enough two lamb sharwarma’s (£4.80) followed- an uncessary addition to what was initially intended to be a light lunch. They were as good as a shawarma can be, and if only greasy kebab shops could serve these at 3 in the morning, I’d be waking up feeling a lot less guilty most Sunday mornings.
The meal came to £15 a head, but you could quite easily have your fill for under a tenner. For the prices and the how good the food is, then even if you aren’t going to sit in, then next time you are thinking of getting a rubbery panini from Starbucks or a Pret sandwich, then nip here and get a wrap.
Yalla Yalla, 1 Green’s Ct, London, W1F 0HA