What: Lebanese restaurant group Abd El Wahab has opened its first site outside of the Middle East. It will be the nineteenth restaurant from the brand, which was founded in Beirut in 1999.
Who: Mark Dickinson is the UK director for the group, but the chefs at the restaurant both hail from Lebanon. Kamil Bouloot is corporate executive chef, and is also the executive chef across Ghia Holding’s – the restaurant group that owns Abd el Wahab- portfolio of restaurants. Head chef Jihad Eleid has been working with Ab Del Wahab since 2005, and will lead the team of chefs at the London restaurant.
Where: Abd El Wahab has chosen to launch in Belgravia's Pont Street. It will join a host of the likes of Motcombs, Michelin-starred Amaya, Ametsa and Outlaw’s at the Capital.
The vibe: Well suited to the upmarket post-code, with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the airy room with natural light. A ‘living wall’ of plants prevents the sleek design of the interior from being too stuffy (in spite of the gold leaf on the ceiling) and complements the large terrace outside.
The food: Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisines more generally lend themselves well to sharing, and the menu at Abd el Wahab offers a mixture of both cuisines, so is designed for exactly that. Separated into the usual categories (salads; cold starters; hot starters; pastries; fish; grilled; desserts) diners are encouraged to order a selection of dishes to share amongst the table. Small dish highlights include the mixed pickles; moutabbal (similar to baba ghanoush); mhamara (walnut ‘pate’ of sorts made with pomegranate molasses and chilli paste); shanklish (a type of aged goats cheese); sliced spicy ‘sojok’ sausage; sautéed chicken liver; minced meat kibbeh; and grilled cheese roll pastries. Marinated chicken chunks, grilled and served with garlic sauce is a must-order, as are grilled lamb koftas. Despite having some of the same dishes you might find in your local kebab shop, the quality and preparation sets Ab Del Wahab’s grills in a different league- which is reflected in the price.
The drinks: As you would expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant, there is a large selection of soft drinks to choose from including frozen lemonade; minted or pomegranate lemonade; and ‘jallab’, a type of fruit syrup made from carob, dates, grape molasses and rose water. There is also a small list of wines from Lebanon, alongside a wider range from America and Europe, and a selection of classic cocktails.
And another thing: The restaurant is named after the street on which the original outpost of the restaurant was founded. ‘Abd el wahab El Inglizi’ is a “charming” street in Beirut, known for its historical buildings and culture. Across Lebanon now, however, the name is apparently synonymous with the service and cuisine that the restaurant chain provides.