Le Bab

Tucked away on the top level of kingly court, Le Bab is a lovely little Lebanese spot which started off as a humble street food van. They have a simple menu based around gourmet kebabs with a few starters and sides. They also have a brunch menu but that’s only available on Sunday (which I didn’t realise until I got there). I was initially a bit disappointed but in hindsight it was a blessing as it gave me no choice but to order from their normal menu which was incredible! Their kebabs were so packed full of flavour that ordering something like a standard breakfast hash from their brunch menu would actually seem like a waste.

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They only have five kebabs on offer, but deciding between those alone was hard enough – each sounded more delicious than the one before and I wanted to try them all! The kebabs all come served on a flatbread which you roll up yourself before eating. It comes unrolled which means you can fully appreciate all of the amazing fillings (and take a pretty photo!) before you roll it up into one giant mess! A bloody delicious mess though. I chopped mine in half first to make it slightly easier to eat – I envisaged all of the fillings dropping out of the other end if I’d tried to eat it all as one. Trying to eat it gracefully is an art I challenge anyone to master – it’s certainly not first date food but it is most definitely worth every bit of mess. With fillings like (bright purple) beetroot hummus and (bright green) roasted broccoli purée, perhaps avoid wearing white though! Each variation is perfectly thought through with a main element, accompanied by a few delicious sauces and an array of textures and flavours. Just thinking about it makes me want to skip work and go back right now to demolish the entire menu! Then again I can’t think of any circumstances under which I’d choose work over food..

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After much deliberation I went for the BBQ paneer. I love paneer and I rarely have it.. to me it’s more indian than Lebanese so I was surprised to see it on the menu but it bloody works. It came with a pretty bright purple beetroot puree, crispy onions, pickled rainbow chard stem and the most amazing curry mayo. It was incredible – just look at it! Isn’t it the prettiest kebab you’ve ever seen? (Trust me, it tastes even better).

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The paneer was grilled to perfection, and with the earthiness of the beetroot, the crispy onions and the creamy, spiced mayo it was a match made in heaven. My friend was reluctant to order it as she thought BBQ paneer was a weird flavour, but it wasn’t actually a BBQ flavour, it had just been beautifully charred on the grill. I don’t even like mayo but it was so beautifully flavoured that I could’ve had double the amount. I also tried the pork schwarma and it was ridiculous. Possibly the best kebab I’ve ever tasted. Soft, tender, juicy meat packed full of flavour with a subtle broccoli purée, crispy crackling for texture, complimented perfectly by acidity from the pickled kohlrabi and the creaminess of the mayo. My friend got the lamb, and while it’s my least favourite meat I’ll admit it was still absolutely delicious. She was full half way through but loved it so much that she battled on to finish the whole thing. Our other friend got the chicken – every bit as succulent and soft as you’d hope from middle eastern meat, piled up with squash hummus, garlic toum and pickled heritage carrots for a slight crunch and a stunningly colourful finish.

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And then there are the fondue fries – a homage to their humble beginnings as a kebab van. Crispy, crunchy rustic skin on fries with a pot of melted cheese for dipping. I challenge you to think of a meal that isn’t made better by the addition of cheesy fries, and this was definitely no exception.

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They have a few other sides and starters – an endive salad and a cauliflower and broccoli gratin which we avoided, but for starters they have three unique and delicious small plates. We went for the mutton meatballs and cauliflower pastilla by default, as the third – a lokma donut (which appealed to me purely out of curiosity.. and the word donut of course!) had peanut included in the dish 😦 As it turns out the mutton meatballs were sneakily garnished with peanuts too, which was neither mentioned on the menu, nor that obvious since it was just a few crumbs on top. But I can smell that horrible nut a mile off (I don’t know if it’s part of my reaction or just part of knowing what it does to me but the smell alone makes me feel sick) so as it turned out I had to donate my meatballs to everyone else anyway 😦 My friend said they were a bit dry anyway though. Maybe she was just being nice. The cauliflower pastilla was delicious though – a smooth filling packed full of spices, encased in crisp, crunchy pastry. It was served with a mint yogurt dressing, which had tiny gratings of pineapple which provided the most subtle hint of sweetness – it was a little strange – not quite like anything I’ve had before – but it definitely worked.. we mopped up every last bit of it!

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We went in Winter which made this little place even more worth it. All of the joy and intense colours and flavours of street food without the the struggle of trying to balance fries in one hand and a kebab in the other whilst feeling like you might lose a few of your fingers to frostbite! You can even book (yay!) to completely avoid waiting outside in the cold, miserable, rainy British Winter weather.

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Everything I’ve said so far has been nothing but positive and honestly they really do deserve every bit of praise – their concept is simple but done incredibly well – each kebab is packed full of beautiful flavour combinations to die for. My only gripe was 1) the size and 2) the price, which I guess come hand in hand. Their menu says their kebabs come served on flatbreads but really it’s more of a wrap. Our friends were full but we really weren’t – I was hoping/expecting that the bread would be more fluffy and substantial like the thicker bread you’d find in souvlaki or from a typical kebab shop. I get that they were aiming for a more refined version but to me a kebab shouldn’t served in a wrap, otherwise it’s.. well.. a wrap! The fillings were absolutely divine, but if they’d been wrapped up in a pillowy soft flatbread then for me they really would’ve nailed it on all accounts. They also came in at a pricey £12 each. For a thin and not very substantial wrap that’s bloody expensive. I get that they’re served in a warm and cosy place rather than from a tiny little rent-free van so I’d be willing to pay a few quid more, but over a tenner for what is essentially a wrap seems a little steep even for London. It was £5.50 for a (pretty small) portion of fries too.

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Price grips aside, which is hardly uncommon in London eateries, the kebabs were absolutely packed full of flavour and the mix of colourful sauces inside created a taste that I certainly couldn’t have made myself so I’d probably still go back and I’d definitely still recommend it to other people. I tried them all and I really couldn’t begin to pick a favourite, so screw the bank balance – my advice is go hungry or go with a group of friends and order the whole lot – they’re too good not to!

Link to their website: www.eatlebab.com/

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