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Imad’s Syrian Kitchen Plans Restaurant Debut in Soho, Just as Restaurants Shut Down

Imad Alarnab takes over from Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in Kingly Court with opening entirely out of his hands

A spread of Syrian dishes at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, due to open in Soho on 18 December 2020
A spread of Syrian dishes at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, due to open in Soho on 18 December 2020
Issy Croker

Chef and restaurateur Imad Alarnab was going to open his first permanent restaurant in Soho on 18 December — as coronavirus restrictions close restaurants down. With London entering tier three of COVID-19 measures from 16 December, under which restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars must close, the new home for his Syrian cooking which has popped up to great acclaim across the city over the last four years is on hold once again.

Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is a fittingly personal name for a place devoted to a cuisine so marked by movement, trade, and conflict that its diffuseness and variation between place and people are its hallmarks. Alarnab’s iteration of falafel; or kibbeh, or fattet macdous — in which roasted baby aubergines commune with lamb, garlic, cumin, and yoghurt — is his, brought with him from Damascus to London via Calais as a refugee when he fled his home country in 2015. In Syria, he ran multiple restaurants; in London, several successful pop-ups — including one on Columbia Road to aid a Syrian children’s hospital — bought him a following that stumped up the £50,000 in crowdfunding he needed to get the restaurant over the line.

His restaurant will open on the Kingly Court site formerly home to Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express, which has now opened in Covent Garden. There is now uncertainty over whether it will do so this year, but Alarnab says the timing isn’t what really matters:

“I am now finally going to open my own restaurant in the heart of London, the city I and my family now call home. Losing my restaurants in Damascus was devastating, but I am so happy that I can now bring my Syrian cooking to Kingly Court in Soho, to the people of London who have supported me so much over the last few years.”

A photo of restaurateur Imad Alarnab with a group of chefs in traditional whites, outside the entrance of a restaurant with blue windows and white signage that says “Imad’s Syrian Kitchen”
Imad Alarnab with his opening team in Soho
Issy Croker