What: The second restaurant incarnation of Levantine-inspired concept Arabica, which has opened on the ground floor of the recently opened Aga Khan Centre building in King’s Cross.
Who: Arabica is the brainchild of chef James Walters, who began exploring Levantine cuisine when he first came to Borough Market as an operator nearly 20 years ago. He initially tested the waters of opening a bricks and mortar Arabica site in Notting Hill in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he established the first permanent restaurant in Borough. Speaking recently to BigHospitality, Walters says he’s been interested in opening a second restaurant for some time, but wanted to ensure the business had a solid foundation before expanding. Having now established that, and opened a second site, Walters is now looking towards the future of the brand, with the potential for further restaurant openings very much on the cards.
The food: Walters tells us he was keen to ensure Arabica KX wasn’t just a carbon copy of what had come before. As such he’s opted to overhaul the menu, creating an almost entirely new offering that’s complemented by a handful of popular dishes from the Borough Market site. His approach to the menu design has been more creatively freewheeling, with inspiration drawn from trips made to Lebanon, Istanbul and Tel Aviv, and a focus on unconventional flavour combinations and less-familiar dishes. As with Borough, though, the emphasis is on sharing plates sold at an affordable price.
On the menu: The menu is split across six sections, with smaller plates mainly costing around £6 and £9 each, and larger dishes generally moving towards the £10 to £12 mark. A dedicated dips menu features a ‘super-charged’ hummus with sweet peppers, red chilli, garlic, parsley and roasted spiced chickpeas (£5.50) that’s also available topped with sautéed spiced beef (£7); and smoked aubergine moutabel with tahini and pomegranate (£6). Smaller hot meze plates include Istanbul-style mussels with walnut tarator (£6.50); beef cheek borekas (£8.50); and a Levantine fish fry featuring sesame beer-battered fish served with a tahini tartar (£8.50). Larger dishes include a white clam pide (£11); chicken and pistachio shish with a chicory, fennel, orange and mint salad (£12); and a signature kebab el Arabica featuring lamb koftes, charred tomatoes, blackened onions and Turkish peppers sealed with bread dough lid (£14).
The vibe: Arabica KX features a larger space than at Borough, with room for just over 100 covers including 40 on an exterior terrace. The space is open-planned, with counter and table seating available. And the mood is relaxed and inviting, with plenty of soft lighting and a modest, bluesy soundtrack.
And another thing: Though KX may only be the second Arabica restaurant, Walters has expanded in other ways, including with a regular street food stall at South Bank Food Market and a deli counter in Selfridges Food hall. There’s also an online Arabica shop, as well as a catering and wholesale arm.
7 Lewis Cubitt Walk, London, N1C 4DT