What: A new kebab restaurant on Islington’s Upper Street within the site that was once home to Des Mcdonald's retro fish-and-chips shop Vintage Salt. Bababoom launched in Battersea 2016 and serves up a tight menu of Middle Eastern-style kebabs cooked over charcoal.
Who: Eve Bugler, Travis Fish and Jono Jenkins. Bugler and Fish held senior roles at Nando’s prior to launching Bababoom and Jenkins used to oversee the food at Geronimo Inns. There are some big casual dining names behind the scenes who have provided advice and investment, including Nando’s chief executive David Niven, Las Iguanas founder Eren Ali and Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby.
The vibe: Bababoom Islington is a little slicker than the Battersea Rise site, which by the founders own admission had something of a "first restaurant" feel. It's also twice as big, weighing in at around 70 covers. The design is colourful, modern and fairly neutral; the only hint that the food is Middle Eastern are some Moorish-looking tiles and the jars of pickled vegetables that line the walls. The overall feel is not overtly chain-y, although further expansion is certainly on the cards. The trio have been eyeing Upper Street - a busy stretch that’s long been popular with emerging restaurant brands - for some time and were lured in by a significant drop in premiums (there have been a string of closures in the area).
The food: The food is inspired by the Middle East but doesn’t draw influence from one country in particular. “We’re not trying to be authentic – that would be disingenuous – what we want is to serve awesome plates of food that leave people happy, full and excited about eating more of our kebabs,” the team says. The menu is tight with a selection of nibbles - including sweet potato hummus with chargrilled flat bread and crunchy raw veg; and sticky sumac chicken wings with date, molasses and lime - a choice of six kebabs and some sides. Kebabs - available with either chargrilled flatbread or fattoush salad - include saffron and orange chicken shish; lamb and sour cherry adana; and beef brisket with chilli and smoked cheese kofte. Diners can also add extras to their chosen kebabs including grilled Mastelo cheese; date-glazed bacon and avocado tahini. Kebabs are priced between £10 and £12 equating to an average spend per head of £20.
And another thing: The Bababoom trio rejected the ‘posh kebab’ tag when they opened their inaugural restaurant. This has proved to be a sensible move. Other new kebab players have drawn significant amount of ire for positioning themselves in this manner and insinuating that their products were tastier and better quality than those available in Middle Eastern-run establishments. Most infamously, Fanny's Kebabs was rightly skewered for its plan to open a posh kebab restaurant that would “reshape what people think a kebab is” in Stoke Newington, which is home to some of London’s best and ocakbaşi restaurants.