James Walters, who co-founded the concept with Jad al Younis in 1999, will open Arabica Bar & Kitchen - an 80-cover restaurant and bar on Rochester Walk - in June, with accomplished restaurateur Bunmi Okolosi coming on-board as general manager.
Long lists of vegetable-focused mezze, rare-breed meat and fish and stone-baked pastries will feature on the menu, with a new street cart continuing to serve falafel and shawarma wraps outside the venue on market days.
“It’s fantastic to be able to set up a proper bricks ‘n’ mortar operation here in Borough Market,” Walters told BigHospitality. “This area has paved the way for hundreds of food markets up and down the country and inspired lots of people to open small delis and change the food culture of the UK.
“We’ve got a permanent lease here, and it’s where it all began for us, so it feels right to be opening here. We want to differentiate ourselves from other places, with a more unique vibe.”
Attention to detail
The menu at Arabica Bar & Kitchen will interweave authentic classics with modern dishes inspired by the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. Dishes – which range from £3 to £6.75 for bar snacks and £4.95 to £12.95 for mezze - will include Dexter beef and bone marrow kofta; chicken & pistachio taouk; and grilled haloumi with burnt cherry tomatoes.
Walters, who will be overseeing menu development and training chefs, believes it is the attention to detail he is taking with the sourcing of ingredients that will help the restaurant stand out from the ever-growing crowd of restaurants in the Borough Market area.
“I don’t think there’s anything in London like it,” he said. “We’ll be using lots of rare-breed meat and single-variety English charcoal; and our wine list is international with some Middle Eastern varieties.
“The quality of service will also be a real point of difference for us – that’s where Bunmi has the expertise.
Okolosi comes in as general manager from The Lockhart restaurant in Marylebone. The restaurateur, who was also previously the manager of Peruvian restaurant Lima and maître d' of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal when it launched in 2011, will oversee ‘service that offers great attention to detail but is very informal at the same time’.
Situated in a Victorian railway arch, Arabica BAr & Kitchen's décor will be stripped back to the original brickwork, with a polished concrete floor and vintage furniture offering an alternative to the more ‘classic’ ethnic restaurants.
Meanwhile, a dedicated bar area will offer a range of bespoke, Eastern Mediterranean inspired cocktails curated by Geoff Robinson (of Happiness forgets and the Experimental cocktail club) and a concise wine list chosen by wine specialist Zeren Wilson.
Arabica Food & Spice Company will continue to operate concessions at Selfridges Food Hall, the Real Food Market and Broadway market, along with an online shop. The new restaurant will be open for six days a week for lunch and dinner.
Speaking of the potential to eventually expand the concept with more permanent restaurants in the future, Walters concluded: “It definitely has the potential to expand but that’s not of great interest to me.
“As and when we feel like we have a great consistency and everyone is content, we might look at exploring something different – perhaps taking a more specific focus with the food offering. But I want us to walk before we can run and we’ll just see how it goes here in Borough Market.”
Arabica Bar & Kitchen will open at 3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, in June.