Rupert Street- it’s not really Chinatown, not really Soho, not quite Piccadilly. Explaining where Palomar is, is a bit like trying to explain the menu. It’s modern Jerusalem food, which has a bit of Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern influences. There’s raw dishes, there’s comforting hearty dishes and there’s dishes with ingredients you’d never think of putting together- think beef with a blubbery madeira cake. Palomar manages to be entirely familiar and unexpected at the same time. And always brilliant.


The restaurant opened last year and has been packed ever since. There’s a small number of reservations in the back dining room (good luck getting one of them- you’ve got more chance at Dorsia). The best thing is to wait for a seat up at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. Unlike the calm order of Bocca Di Lupo or Barrafina, which share a similar design, Palomar has an infectious buzz. This is helped by the excellent staff, who will sing along to the Bee Gees and have a shot with you, and also by the simple and brilliant cocktail list that is far too easy to work your way through. There’s a real authentic passion here which shines in the cooking and service. It feels like the chefs or owners have grown up eating these dishes, and have just refined them a little. The menu is always fresh and exciting, but also feels so homely. You really can’t have a bad meal here.

To start things off some kubaneh (luckily the dishes come with descriptions)- a duvet of warm brioche-like bread served in its baking pot with tahini and a tomato dip to mop up. Then from the raw dishes the beetroot carpaccio had a clean fresh taste, and the beef tartare is the best I’ve had. There was a real zing to the flavour, and an added crunch from crispy Jerusalem artichokes.



What followed was a string of dishes that you wish weren’t designed to be shared. Butternut squash risotto was rich and creamy, with crispy sage leaves and crushed pistachios giving an added texture. Jerusalem Polenta was an indulgent blend of asparagus and parmesan with a hint of truffle oil. A pork belly tajine with apricots and ras el hanout was another comforting winner. Best of all was the Shakshukit- a deconstructed kebab- it was a sloppy delight- mopped clean with the pita. A Jerusalem Mess made up of lemon cream, almond crumble, strawberries, apple jelly and sorrel, is one of the most refreshing desserts I’ve ever eaten. A perfect end to the best meal this year.

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There are plenty of great small-plate restaurants in London, especially in Soho. Barrafina, Polpo and Bocca Di Lupo are the longstanding kings, but Palomar may well have taken their top spot. It is the most exciting food I can remember having in London. The staff are so good that every owner should take his waiters here so that they can see how it is done. A faultless meal, even if I have no idea how to describe what or where it was.

10/10 (£££)

34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN

The Palomar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Tapas Brindisa

There are few things better in this world than pan con tomate. Few things more simple. Bread with tomato. No fancy cooking techniques, no long list stating the provenance of all the ingredients. Yet it’s a dish that so many restaurants get wrong. Often the bread is soggy having stood pre-prepped hours before service, or they aren’t brave enough with that rub of garlic, or there’s big chunks of tomato rather than the finer pulp spread across the bread. Recently a Spanish restaurant presented me with a full tomato, a slice of toast, an unpeeled garlic clover and olive oil. DIY pan con tomate. The lazy bastard of a chef must have been on his siesta. Needless to say the rest of the meal was just as disappointing. A good pan con tomate to start a meal off makes a big promise. It shows a confidence from the kitchen that they will let the ingredients do the talking, and at Brindisa they get it spot on. What followed was ingredients put together, rather than dishes- Spanish cooking at its best. Padron peppers with salt. Summer vegetables with chorizo and a duck egg. Prawns with crispy garlic and a fiery kick of chilli. Pork fillet served pink with sweet peppers and some chorizo oil.



All Spanish restaurants know what to do with a potato and here the chorizo tortilla was as good as any. But the Huevos Rotos was the star of the show. If ever a dish was designed to soak up last night’s booze then this is it. It’s the hair-of-the-dog of dishes. So good that you’re ordering an Estrella half way through it. Served in a small pan the slices of potato are glued together with the rich egg yolk and have a lick of salt and colour from the chorizo. Offered this or Kendall Jenner as a last dish to feast on before I die, and I’d probably take this.


Brindisa has a lot of competition- not only for Spanish restaurants in London- but set on the corner of Borough Market, you only have to walk five yards to get stuck into a a range of cheap lunches. But it continues to hold it’s own. It’s not quite as adventurous or refined as Barrafina or those in the Salt Yard Group- but for it’s sheer simplicity, it remains my favourite spot for a weekend lunch.


18-20 Southwark Street London SE1 1TJ
Tapas Brindisa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Similar: BarrafinaJoseMorito



There’s plenty of good Spanish food in London, but you must be prepared to empty your wallet to get your fill. Those addictive little toothpicks and endless tapas dishes soon add up to a hefty bill. But when it is done well, there are few more enjoyable meals to be had. It’s also the home of small plates, something London is obsessed with at the minute. Just about every new restaurant is jumping on this small plates band wagon, which is fine if the dishes naturally merit being shared, but as was the case with Social Eating House recently, pearl barley or a fillet of turbot were not really ideal for passing across a table. The Spanish have perfected this style. The food is easy to share, and it all combines to make a meal feel like an event. It is something that brings people together to chat and take their time with plenty of wine over a long evening. We might not yet be able to relax in a London restaurant, but at least we have managed to capture the vibe of these little tapas bars. The pick of the bunch are Jose, Morito and Barrafina, which usually mean queuing up to get your arse on one of the few cramped seats. If this isn’t for you, then there is also more serious Spanish dining to be had. For those who like to turn up for dinner at the right time without the anxiety of getting a seat. The Salt Yard group and Fino fall in this category. The food is just as good, and you’ll not have somebody hovering over your shoulder waitng for your seat. But the downside, it that they just aren’t as fun.

Tonight it was Fino, the older sister of Barrafina, now in its tenth year of service. It’s a much maturer restaurant, with an older more suited clientele. Tucked in a classily decorated basment just off Charlotte Street, this is all about starched napkins and a thick wine list, rather than stuffing food into your mouth with your fingers and sloshing down bottles of beer. The food is what does the talking though, and the dishes, just like the service, have been perfected over time, making it a consistently solid experience. There’s none of the experimentation you might find at other Spanish restuarants across London, just tried classics that are simply presented and taste great.

Everything is done well here, right down to the pan con tomate (£2.80 per slice) which comes on a thickly sliced lightly toasted slice of bread with chunks of fleshy Spanish tomato and plenty of salt.


The manchego cheese with membrillo (£6.80) was a bit underwhelming, mainly because of size of it. There was no real bite to the slices of cheese, and so the flavour didn’t come through as much. I had a similar dish at Morito, but there they grilled the manchego and gave a much bigger chunk.


The tortilla is unrivalled in London. It’s better than most of the tortillas I’ve had in Spain. With strong chorizo and aioli (£8.60) combining with the creamy egg that bursts out the perfectly crisp outer shell of the tortilla this is as good as it gets.


The stuffed courgette flowers were the star of the show tonight. They outshone the same I had at Smokehouse earlier in the month. The balance here between the sweetness of the honey and the strong hit of goat cheese was perfect. The batter was so light that a gentle press of the spoon caused the cheese to ooze out. Simple and perfect.


The calamar en tinta (£8.90) was a stuffed baby squid, cooked in the ink. Again a solid dish that leaves you with a jet black smile.


The grilled quail (£8.50) had been butterflied and had a crisp salty skin, but it needed a kick from a sauce to give it a punch. Maybe some romesco, or even just a hit of garlic or lemon to bring it to life.


The grilled pork (around £13) was served pink and had a lovely deep meaty sauce with plenty of paprika, garlic and chorizo that combined perfectly with the sweet garden peas.


To finish I had the torrijas (£6.5) which is a slice of bread that has been soaked in milk with honey and spices, which has then been fried and came with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream. It as really sweet, but it was hard not to love these ingredients working together.


It was a really enjoyable meal, but there’s not much value for money to be had at Fino. £5.40 for a bottle of Estrella is pushing the boundaries of what I’m willing to pay. As is £7.80 for one courgette flower no matter how good it tastes. With a bottle of Calcari (£33) the bill shot up to the £70 per head mark, which makes this more of a special occasion or expense account sort of place, rather than a casual bite after work. Even though the cooking was just as strong, Barrafina remains my pick, even if it is a struggle to get a table. It’s just a lot more fun than this, and that’s what tapas should be.

Food: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 6/10

Value: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

33 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, W1T 1RR
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Fino on Urbanspoon



Oxford Street is a hell-hole of tourist traps. You have to venture down the side-streets to come across the good stuff- like Roka, Berners Tavern and Aqua. But these restaurants empty your pockets and are best saved for a special occasion. If you’re after something more informal, there are few better places than Zoilo, just behind Selfridges on Duke Street, a discreet little Argentinian restaurant serving up great small plates and Argentinian wines at decent prices.

Inside it has a very intimate vibe with a main bar counter on both floors to sit up at. Choose the one downstairs as you get to overlook the chefs at work, which is always ideal for a date when you realise you have nothing in common and run out of chat. There’s a good choice of wines by the glass or carafe, which in theory allows you to drink a bit less, but inevitably means you try three times as much. What I loved about tonight was that we weren’t handed a menu and told to order straight away. I’m getting sick of being told what to do in London restaurants. Of being hurried in and out, so that some tosser who can have my table for 10pm (who even eats at that time anyway, a tosser, thats who).

We were invited to order a couple of bar snacks with our first glass of wine. The first was the empanadas- basically the South American equivalent of a pasty. At £3.50 each these are a great little bites. One was filled with braised beef skirt potatoes, onions and olives, the other with chicken, grilled peppers, shallots and cumin and although they could have been bigger with their flavours, they were still delicious. The pig’s head croquettes (£5.95) were a little small for their price, and didn’t have the strong piggy flavour I was hoping for. But that quince jam made up for it.


We then moved onto the main menu, starting off with Scallops, sweet  potato, caramelised pork belly and chorizo (£9.25). Of course all of these ingredients are classic combinations, but it still takes a lot 0f skill to execute the dish perfectly. It’s all a balancing act, as with the big salty hit from the chorizo and pork belly, there’s always that risk that you overpower the scallops. But they nailed it, and to make it even better there was several different textures involved making it a real pleasure to eat. The only complaint was that the scallops were tiny. Big juicy ones would have been fairer for this price. But you can’t win them all.


Next was the“Chimichurri”  burger with  provolone  cheese, grilled tomato, caramelised onions, pickles and aioli (£6.95). Just reading that makes me want it again. These ingredients inside a bun can’t help but taste great. And with a perfectly juicy beef patty this was a really solid burger. Considerably better than some of the trash I’ve been served up at burger joints recently.


Then there was a white asparagus salad  (£7.50)with a cheese souffle in the middle that was unusual but absoloutely brilliant.


Another hit was the warm octopus and mussel salad (around £7) that had picked up a good char from the grill. It was served with broad beans and a tangy green sauce. With it we got the classic chips “provenzal” £3.95 – these might just be some of the best chips around. Finally a restaurant that doesn’t bottle it with the garlic. These were absolutely laced with the stuff. If you’re on a date and order them you can write off any action later.


The food continued to please with desserts- the milk cake came with a refreshing passion fruit sorbet and the flaked almonds and biscuit gave it a bit of texture. The dulce de leche crème brûlée with a dollop of caramel ice cream speaks for itself. IMG_2314


There’s a lot to love about this restaurant. The food is intriguing and comforting at the same time. It could possibly be a bit bolder with some of its flavours to give some dishes more of a punch, but there wasn’t any dish that we didn’t love. The food tastes like it’s been made by the chef. Of course all restaurant food does or should, but I mean you don’t feel like this has been churned out in some huge kitchen by just any chef. There’s something personal and homemade to this cooking, like it’s food the chef has been brought up on. Even in the way the food was plated up, it felt like there wasn’t always a set way of doing things, like there is a passion and creative freedom in the kitchen. For me this is the best type of cooking.

The staff were effortlessly charming and with great wine as well, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself here. It has a similar vibe to Polpo and Morito, but it’s just much more laid back. There isn’t a queue of people hovering behind you, waiting for your chair. The bill came to £135 which was a bit of a surprise, but a bottle and a half of wine and lots of dishes. This always tends to be the case with small plates. It all seems so cheap and then you go and order everything on the menu. Still though it was well worth the price, not necessarily for groundbreaking food, but just for solid cooking and a throlougly relaxing and enjoyable meal. It might only be a couple of streets away from the hussle of thousands of shoppers, but you’d struggle to find a more intimate little restaurant in central London.

Food: 8/10

Service: 8.5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 7/10

Overall: 7.5/10

9 Duke St, London W1U 3EG

Zoilo on Urbanspoon

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Caravan King’s Cross

The area behind King’s Cross is at that awkward stage in its transformation where it is on the verge of being the new in-place, but at the moment is just a load of empty office blocks and construction sites. The last time I ate in the new urban hipster hang-out that is Granary Square, was at Grain Store, and I couldn’t get past the industrial and alienating feeling of the place. I was worried I’d get the same from the Caravan here and that it would be a world away from the intimate vibe at the Exmouth Market restaurant. But as soon as I walked in all these worries disappeared. They have managed to warm the space with excellent lighting and by packing the tables in closely together. If you’re one of the unlucky few to get a table in the dark back-room by the coffee roaster then maybe you won’t share this feeling.


First I’ll get my big complaint out the way- the dreaded 2 hour turnover rule. Why do restaurants insist on telling the diners this? Do they not realise it is possibly the least hospitable and welcoming thing to have whispered in your ear? I’m paying for that seat, if I go a little over 2 hours (which is rarely the case) then find a way to deal with it. What they should do, is ensure that the service gets you in and out within that time slot. I realise Caravan isn’t the only restaurant to do this, but at the Exmouth Market restaurant I have never been told to pack my thing up if I’ve overstayed my welcome. The way not to deal with this is to then rush the diners through their dinner. We were asked twice within a minute of sitting down if we were ready to order. Can I at least look at the menu first? When we eventually did order, all 6 small plates were in front of us within 10 minutes. This meant a cluttered table and a few of the dishes went cold. It also meant we were done with our mains inside 30 minutes, and had to ask for a 15 minute break before ordering dessert. All in all, I was out within the hour. They really need to chill out and let you enjoy yourself a bit more, because this really took the shine off a great meal. Surely they can just use common sense and stagger the dishes.

With that off my chest, let’s get to the food, which on the whole was really good here. The menu is made up of a great selection of small plates that all sounded appealing. There are influences from around the globe, and some interesting combinations to be found. The waitress actually told us to order one less dish, as six would easily be enough food. I was surprised when she was right as I’d heard portions were small here, but this wasn’t the case with any dishes we tried.

First up the Jalapeno corn bread with chipotle butter (£4) had a real freshness thanks to the coriander and lime. The only slight let down was that the bread wasn’t warm enough to melt the chipotle butter, so it remained a cold clump on top.


The meats on the Charcuterie board (£8) were all tasty, especially the spicy chorizo, and it was a fair portion for this price.


The Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip bake, with mustard, honey and chestnuts (£6) was again a generous poriton, and was a real winter warmer of a dish. It remninded me of something Nigel Slater would get turned on by on one of his cooking shows. Something he’d describe as heavenly on the tongue and everything he wants from a dish. Both of these root vegetables have a lovely sweetness to them that was balanced out with a good helping of the wholegrain mustard. It was a really satisfying dish.


The Smoke haddock and leek croquettes with lemon pepper aioli (£6) was the only dish I didn’t like. They just didn’t taste anything different to something you’d buy in a packet from a supermarket. There wasn’t a strong smokiness from the haddock, and the aioli was heavy on the pepper and not to my taste.

The Grilled octopus , chorizo, piquillo, mojo picon (£9) was another tasty dish, but it was let down by the fact that by the time we got to eating it, it had gone cold. The mojo picon sauce, is be made up of garlic, olive oil, chilli and paprika, and it had a good kick to it. With the addition of the chorizo though there was a lot of spicy paprika flavour, and it was a little too much for the octopus.


I wasn’t expecting the Porcini, kale, taleggio and truffle oil pizza (£10) to be so big. I thought it would be similar to the size you’d get at Polpo, so this was a pleasant surprise. The toppings all worked well, but I would have liked a little more of the cheese and kale, as the flavour forcing its way through was the truffle oil. I find this with a lot of restaurants who include truffle oil in a dish, they just always go overboard, as if lashing a dish with it will make the customer feel like they are getting a real bargain. And then restaurants that use real truffle, hold back as much of those shavings as possible. Can somebody not just find a middle ground.


To finish things off I had an Affogato (£5), which is of course great here because the Caravan coffee is so good. I would have like a little bit more of the coffee though, as this small amount wasn’t enough to melt the ice cream making the coffee-vanilla cream at the bottom.

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I enjoyed the meal, but having scoffed it all within an hour I walked back with indigestion and feeling a little short changed having paid £83 for an hour’s entertainment. I’d chosen to go to Caravan for Valentine’s day because I didn’t want one of those crappy set meals, and instead wanted somewhere much more laid back. At Caravan Exmouth Market you always get this casual, laid back feel. Here it did feel that now that they have upped the scale of the operation, the practicalities of running a business like this have come into play more, and so that good old conveyor belt system has sadly been introduced. It’s a shame, because had we just been left to enjoy our meal, we no doubt would have been out within our allotted 2 hour slot.

Food: 7.5/10

Service: 5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

Granary Building, Granary Square, 1, London N1C 4AA

Caravan Kings Cross on Urbanspoon

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If ever a restaurant faced stiff competition then Elliot’s located right in the heart of Borough Market is just that. It always looks appealing with people standing outside enjoying a glass of wine, but I’ve never been able to resist the treats on offer in the market so I have always been too full to give it a go. What convinced me today was that I had read that they served one of the best burgers in London, something I could hardly pass the opportunity of trying.


We turned up without a booking and were told they’d have a table ready for 1.30pm. That time soon came and went, and it was 2pm before we were seated. This didn’t bother me a great deal because we took a seat up the bar, ordered a couple of pints of the Kernel pale ale (£5) and took the place in. There’s a great warm vibe which was helped by it being packed, and it has the feel of a good neighbourhood restaurant.


When we were seated it was a little frustrating to be made to wait for about ten minutes without a menu. Finally with one in our hands I was gutted that there was no sign of the famed burger! Instead it was made up of small sharing plates and a few mains. Oh well, I’ve had three burgers already this week, can’t hurt to be a little more experimental.

We had to ask for bread and water (that makes it sound a little bit like a soup kitchen) and then had to tell the waiter when we were ready to order. The waiter was chatty and knew his stuff, although when we asked how much food we would need (I always get confused by this small plate system and end up with far too much) he did seem to be pushing us down ordering more than we’d need.

First up was the brown sourdough. Exactly what we needed to soak up last night’s drink and ease our hunger. It was warm, soft and with just-the-right-amount of burnt crust. It’s probably the best sourdough I have eaten, and it helped to ease my pain at missing out on the burger.

The first small plate was game sausage with oxford sauce (£7). I was hoping for big juicy sausages so I was a little disappointed by the three chipolata sized sausages that turned up. They didn’t have a strong enough game flavour, but were still tasty and the oxford sauce (which I admit I didn’t know what it was) had a good kick of mustard. Still though for £7 this is more like an expensive bar snack than a small plate to share.


Next up was the hare ragu and fazzoletti pasta (£10). Again given the size of the portion I find this to be overpriced. The dish was fine, but didn’t really excite. It needed more seasoning but there was no salt or pepper to be seen- either complete confidence by the chefs that the seasoning is just right or the waiters forgot to put them out. It also could have done with a little more of the meat juices and sauce- it just needed something to bring the dish together.


Last of the smalls was squid with datterini tomatoes and capers (£10). The squid was perfectly cooked and had a lovely flavour, but the dish was a little unbalanced given how many capers and tomatoes there were, as the sharpness of their flavour took the focus away from the squid.


For a main we shared the cockerel kiev and cauliflower cheese (£29). Is it simply by putting cockerel instead of chicken that they can push the price of the dish up? It certainly seemed a little expensive for a posh kiev, especially how you only get one side with it. It has to be said though that it was excellent. The crumb crust was perfectly crispy, like that on the best of Scotch eggs, and the chicken was moist and succulent, and there was plenty of strong and buttery garlic sauce. The cauliflower cheese was rich and had a good strong flavour as well.

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With a couple of beers the bill came to just over £75, which for a lunch that was initially intended to be a quick burger seemed expensive. Although it is the best sourdough bread and possibly the best chicken (sorry cockerel) kiev I’ve eaten, it still didn’t justify these prices. I admire that they use seasonal ingredients and keep things simple, it was just that none of the small plates really had a good kick of flavour. We were left thinking just how much we could have had in Borough market for that price…

Food: 7/10

Service: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 7/10

12 Stoney St, (Borough Market) SE1 9AD

Elliot's Cafe on Urbanspoon 


Yalla Yalla


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.

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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.

Service: 5/10

Food: 7/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value: 9/10

Overall: 7/10

Yalla Yalla, 1 Green’s Ct, London, W1F 0HA

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

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