The group behind one of the Middle East’s most acclaimed Lebanese restaurant brands, Abd el Wahab, has announced that it will open a site in Belgravia at the beginning of March — its first restaurant outside of the Arab region.
The 120-cover restaurant, located on Pont Street, will “serve some of the most traditional and much loved dishes and wines from Lebanon and across the Middle East,” an announcement said.
Ghia Holdings, the parent company of the Abd el Wahab restaurant group, operates 45 dining restaurants across the Middle East. The company says it has identified London as its first international location due to London’s reputation as one of the world’s most influential cities for commerce, culture and international cuisine. And despite London’s great number of Lebanese restaurants on Edgware Road, they feel they have identified a gap in the market.
“London is one of the most exciting cities in the world, but it is surprisingly under-represented by restaurants offering authentic and exciting Lebanese food,” Mark Dickinson, the UK director for Abd el Wahab said.
“We bring together the best ingredients available in London, and the experience of our Lebanese chefs, to recreate the fabulous fresh and flavoursome foods that people would associate with Middle Eastern cuisine. The quality of the food, and the experience of our chefs, ensure that diners will enjoy the same flavours and food experience as if they are dining at our award-wining restaurants in Beirut, Dubai, or Cairo,” he added.
The restaurant will be located over two floors and includes an outside terrace for drinks, Arabic coffee and sweet pastries, or informal dining.
Abd el Wahab is synonymous with the best Lebanese cuisine throughout the Middle East. Since the first restaurant was opened in 1999 in Beirut — Lebanon, the restaurant has been committed to cooking and serving the best authentic food, cooked honestly. Over the last 19 years, certain dishes have evolved to introduce additional ingredients to create new Abd el Wahab classics.
Group executive chef Kamil Bouloot is in position to “ensure that the dishes are accurately replicated to remain loyal to the award-winning Abd el Wahab menu” — a menu that was first created in 1999 in Beirut when the company opened its first restaurant. In traditional Lebanese restaurants and homes, the owners say, meals will start with a platter of fresh salad and vegetables as well as a selection of pickled vegetables and olives — this welcome dish will be served as standard at Abd el Wahab Belgravia.
The menu will offer a wide selection of mezze — both traditional dishes and those developed by Bouloot — which includes a large variety of salads — such as fattouch (a mix of greens, tomato, cucumber, sumac, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and toasted flatbread) and quinoa tabbouleh. Cold starters will include moutabbal (char-grilled aubergine with tahini and lemon juice), shanklish (mature goats cheese, chopped onions, peppers, parsley and tomatoes) and stuffed vine leaves.
Abd el Wahab is also known for its homemade hummus: variants at Belgravia will include one topped with grilled lamb pieces; another with toasted pine nuts. Hot starters will range from sojok and makanek (Lebanese sausages sautéed in lemon juice), ras asfour (sautéed veal filet with pomegranate, garlic and lemon), batata (friend potatoes with garlic, coriander and chilli) as well as kebbeh (deep-fried kebbeh ball stuffed with lamb mincemeat onions and pine nuts.)
Elsewhere there will be grilled jumbo prawns, grilled sea bass and baked fish (with onion, garlic, green chilli, tomatoes and coriander) and classic grilled kebabs, such as chich taouk (marinated chicken fillet with garlic sauce) and Abd el Wahab’s mixed grill (grilled shrimps, lamb cutlets, marinated lamb skewers and chicken taouk) plus grilled meat-stuffed Arabic bread. Ouzzi — slow cooked leg of lamb — will be served with rice and roasted nuts, a dish that will be prepared each day and slow-roasted for 10 hours.
Wines will also be a big focus at the new site.
“What surprises many people outside of the Middle East is that Lebanon produces magnificent award-winning wines,” Dickinson said. “Few places in the world have a longer tradition of wine making, as wine has been made in Lebanon for at least 5,000 years; Modern Lebanese winemaking dates back to the 1850’s, and one vineyard that we are stocking actually stores its wine in caves outside of Beirut that the Romans originally used for wine storage.
“What could be more appropriate than eating Lebanese food accompanied by wine that has grown on vines and slopes steeped in history, and in the same country where the recipes originated?”
As well as Lebanese reds, whites and rosés, European and North American varieties will be available. Prosecco will be served by the glass or bottle; the restaurant will also list Moet and Dom Pérignon and Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé champagnes.
Abd el Wahab officially opens on Friday 2 March.