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Hummus at Bubala in Shoreditch
Hummus with brown butter and pine nuts, from Bubala.
Bubala

Where to Dig in to Hummus in London

A dish marked by myriad culinary cultures and traditions, here’s where to experience its rich heterogeneity in London

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Hummus with brown butter and pine nuts, from Bubala.
| Bubala

Most Londoners consume hummus out of a branded tub, probably purchased at a supermarket, usually using crisps or carrot batons to scoop it up. Versions of the chickpea paste are ubiquitous, and it is so integrated into the British diet that one is more likely to find hummus on a pub menu than old classics like pickled eggs. All in all, eating hummus in Britain for Britons is often a mundane act: it is a food that is snacked on by individuals, rather than shared amongst others. It lacks much of the cultural substance that brought it to these shores in the first place.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Levant, Southwest Asia, by contrast, hummus has historically been eaten less as an everyday snack, and usually as part of a communally shared meal or at restaurants dedicated to the dish alone. It is in the Levant region that hummus’s culinary value is most lauded, the central focus of many restaurants. Previously existing in Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian cities, the genre is now widespread across Israel, with hummusiyot now probably the most common form of restaurant across the country: the word is used to describe Jewish and Palestinian hummus joints alike.

In Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, by contrast, it is eaten only as part of a meze, holding no special status over tarama or tzatziki/cacik, and this is reflected in the Turkish restaurants of Green Lanes and Haringay, and the Cypriot restaurants of Palmers Green. Hummus came to the U.K. with the arrival of a significant number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the 1950s — 1960s, peaking after the 1960 declaration of independence led to severe instability in Cyprus. Veteran food author Claudia Roden, herself arriving in London from Cairo in 1954, remembers Cypriot delis as the only places one could purchase Mediterranean ingredients like tahini and pomegranate molasses.

The arrival of Lebanese migrants to London following the 1975 Lebanese Civil War changed London’s hummus landscape further, with areas like Edgware Road and Shepherd’s Bush shaped by this initial migration. Iraqis, Kurds, Egyptians, Palestinians, and Syrians in particular, began opening restaurants that mostly reflected the already popular Lebanese fare. Since the 1990s, the industrial estate Park Royal has become home to the best of these restaurants.

The forms of hummus one can expect to find in Arab restaurants still largely extend from the Lebanese dominance of what came to be more broadly called “Middle Eastern” food culture in the U.K. After Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbooks exploded in the late 2000s, this set the stage for the arrival of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem based chefs in London. Honey & Co opened in 2012, The Palomar in 2014, and, the London-born Turkish-Cypriot chef Selin Kiazim opened Oklava in 2015. Now these restaurants have inheritances of their own, at the likes of The Barbary, Berber and Q, Bubala, and Mangal II.

Wherever it may be rooted, hummus is a dish that never trails too far away from tradition, and where tweaks are made, they often also indicate stories of migration, as well as culinary innovation. The diversity of the base hummus paste falls on two major decisions. First, the choice of ingredients, such as whether to include garlic or cumin in addition to chickpeas, tahini and lemon juice. Second, the ratio of chickpeas to tahini. It can thus be silky smooth or slightly grainy; supple or dense; citrusy or nutty.

In this spirit of difference, here are eleven hummus dishes that each represent the heterogeneity of London’s hummus creators. They also represent value-for-money. Em Sharif, where a basic hummus mezze costs £14.50, and a gradation of optional toppings reaches its peak with wagyu at £42.50, does not make the list.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Hummus @ Vrisaki

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A list of where to eat hummus in London would be incomplete without a nod to the Cypriot immigrants who first brought the dish to the mouths of Londoners. Greek-Cypriot restaurant Vrisaki was opened in 1970 in the still Cypriot north London neighbourhood of Palmers Green, and where else can someone order a meze dish of hummus for £3.50? Cypriot hummus includes garlic in addition to lemon and tahini and it has a grainier texture than Lebanese hummus, closer to the Turkish variety that uses less tahini. Competing with the likes of tarama and tzatziki, it is loaded with garlic, though less so than the notoriously punchy tahini mezze (called tahini on the menu, but known in Greek as tashi.) If dining with a large group, it is best to order the hummus as part of the Vrisaski set meze, which offers a colossal amount of food for just £22.95, and can be followed by an equally generous main course servings of tsippoura (grey bream), keftedes (pork and beef meatballs), or kleftiko (lamb shank slow-cooked in white wine).

Hummus Beiruty @ Beit el Zaytoun

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Opened in 2017, an Arabic sign outside Beit el Zaytoun reads “the form of the olives were different,” a lyric from a song by legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz. The decorative interiors and geometric-patterned tiles give an upmarket feel, but the prices remain reasonable. In addition to hummus (here, hommos) and hummus beiruty, there’s options for shawarma and minced lamb (bil lahme) toppings on the standard hummus. The ordinary hummus is softer and slightly sweeter, and bil lahme, it makes a pleasing contrast to the piquant meat and crunchy nuts. But the hummus beiruty is the winner here. It is relatively smooth, with some texture and bite, and an abundance of lingering herbal, spicy, garlicky flavour. Accompany it with a tamer hindi “mocktail,” whose tamarind acidity and rosewater fragrance makes for a refreshing contrast, and if not just there for the hummus, it is worth ordering from the “home cooking” section. The frikeh bil lahmeh (cracked green wheat with slow-cooked lamb shoulder) is particularly good.

Msabbaha bil Sujik @ Levant Book Cafe

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Honoring the chickpea and fava bean breakfast traditions of Damascus at weekends, the msabbaha bil sujik is the standout dish here. Translated as “swimming,” somewhat confusingly, in most of the Levant, msabbaha refers to unblended warm hummus, but here it refers to the spicy minced lamb sujik mix that swims on a silky hummus base. Even with a lighter base, there is no denying it is a hearty, sapid dish. It’s only served at weekends, alongside tiseeya bil samneh, a riot of chickpeas and pita chips in a yogurt tahini sauce topped with spices and hot ghee, and ful bil zeit: fava beans in olive oil. The sweets programme, however, runs all week, and it isn’t to be missed. Try the halawat el-jibna semolina and cheese skin filled with orange blossom-flavoured clotted cream, ashta; knaffeh nablusyiah (made with semolina, the original version of the dish hails from the Palestinian city of Nablus), and the slightly chewy-textured pistachio ice-cream. One can also go home with some homemade fruit preserves and fermented chilli shatta imported from Damascus.

Hummus @ Hiba

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The furnishings are unmistakablely Palestinian, but the menu admits to being both Lebanese and Palestinian. The hummus is not exactly velvety, but it isn’t meant to be. A nod to the Jerusalem tradition of hand grinding hummus, it is textural, zingy and flavorsome, and is set off wonderfully by fruity, pithy olive oil. Chilli sauce and garlicky toum come with every order, and adding some of each can pack an even further punch for diners wanting to get playful. The group’s other central branch, Hiba Street, offers a smoother style made with more tahini, and Hiba Taboun, their latest branch opened recently in Walthamstow, offers a different recipe still to go with its array of oven-baked breads.

Hummus @ Ali Baba Restaurant

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Established in 1979, this family-run, Marylebone restaurant proudly advertises its commitment to Egyptian cuisine. The restaurant interior is cosy, and the walls are covered in paintings of historic Cairo’s bustling markets, and of course, the Nile. If eating at lunch, there are often more family members than customers, a gesture towards the intimacy of Egyptian hospitality. The hummus here is necessarily Egyptian-style: slightly more coarse in texture than its Lebanese or Syrian counterpart and tahini-heavy, and topped with a mild and fruity olive oil, the dish’s overall balance is excellent. Whilst the menu isn’t totally devoid of Lebanese influences, one can also order the very Egyptian dishes of mombar, where sausages are stuffed with tomato, chilli and dill rice; the garlicky molokhia soup made with Jew’s mallow; the carbohydrate triple threat of koshari’s rice, lentils, and macaroni with fried onions and spicy tomato sauce; and grilled quails.

Hummus @ Al Enam

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On entering Al Enam, diners are immediately struck by the tanoor (clay oven) and grill. The tanoor bread and grilled meats are superb, but the hummus is equally worth a mention. According to the menu, it is prepared “according to the Iraqi recipe.” Whilst Baghdad is famous for a thicker, denser, variety of hummus, this version feels airy, light and fine, and its taste is astonishingly well-balanced. The Lebanese influence? Perhaps, but regardless, the quality of the dish is a welcome indicator of what may follow in a meal there. The lamb livers and lamb ouzi are particularly sensational. 

Pistachio Hummus @ Yada's Green Kitchen

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Not one for the purists, but flavoured hummus is now part of Britain’s hummus landscape, and at this family-run Kurdish restaurant, an inventive version adds pistachio to create a unique hummus, which can be eaten with home-baked hajari bread. Slightly grainy, the irresistible flavor of pistachio is beautifully present without completely dominating the dish. The rest of Yadas’s menu does contain some tasty meat dishes, but is mostly a joyous ode to the wonders of Kurdish vegetarian cooking.

Hummus with burnt butter and pine nuts @ Bubala

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London-born head chef Helen Graham’s success at Bubala has led to plans for a second location in Soho. Her halloumi with black seed honey has been widely celebrated in the media, but the hummus dish is equally impeccable. After much experimentation over the ideal chickpea-to-tahini ratio, the silkiest form has been masterly achieved. It is garnished with pine nuts, chickpeas, and less conventionally, nutty brown butter; an ingenious touch that is one of co-founder Marc Summers’s contributions to the menu. Laffa, an Iraqi flatbread here produced by Ararat, the lauded baker on Dalston’s Ridley Road Market, provides a wonderfully contrasting dipping device. It is soft and pillowy, but with slightly charred crispiness on pockets of the surface.

Hummus @ Berenjak

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Hummus is not an Iranian dish, though Iran’s geographical proximity to the Arabian Peninsula has led to its increasing popularity in the southern regions of the country, as well as Tehran. In London, it is as common to see hummus on an Iranian restaurant menu as it is to see one without it. Still, at a restaurant promising to reinterpret Tehran’s hole-in-the-wall eateries, one might not expect to see hummus on the mazeh section. Berenjak’s hummus is certainly a reinterpretation, with its texture closer to parfait than to a classic hummus, and as the sesame-laced taftoon bread baked in a clay tanoor just minutes before arrives to the table, there’s a definite sense of expectation. The mix combines black chickpeas with Aleppo pepper and green raisins, in addition to tahini and lemon juice. It is adorned with grated and chopped walnuts, and flavour-wise, the dip is layered with quintessentially Iranian fragrant and slightly sweet tones. As the scent of saffron wafts by, and Farsi-language music blasts from the speakers, the frankly delicious dish gets headier and headier.

Anan @ Rochelle Canteen

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From the school of “less is more,” Eyal Jagermann and Tomer Hauptmann, are creating the first hummus-centered restaurant since the closure of chain group Hummus Bros in 2018. It will be a totally different beast to Hummus Bros, however, with freshness, quality, and simplicity the guiding principles for the duo from The Palomar. Jagermann was first trained at Cafe Italia in Tel Aviv and carries the Italian attention to ingredients into his approach. At the Barbary, he found himself negotiating between his desire to strip down and the Machenyuda group’s eccentric, big-flavour cooking. Anan will be his chance to do things his way, and Hauptmann shares a similar philosophy. Inspired by the style of hummus created in the Arab Galilee, where they have been researching over the past couple years, their promise is to “design a system where hummus has been mixed and grounded no more than an hour ago.” Anan is the word for “cloud” in both Arabic and Hebrew, and their hummus is as light, fluffy and airy as the word suggests. Anan will open in the summer in a yet-to-be-revealed location, but for the eager, Rochelle Canteen will be hosting a pop-up on 18 May 2022.

Hummus with naga pickle chilli oil and crispy chickpeas @ The Nook

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London’s (natural) wine bar scene is ever growing, and hummus features on many menus. The Nook opened in July 2020, and the kitchen is headed up by Ankara-born Lale Oztek-Pook, who moved to London when she was 25. After training at Cordon Bleu and working in Italian restaurants, at The Nook she began cooking the Turkish food of her heritage, with some twists. She told Eater, “In London, in a wine bar, hummus is going to be popular. I wanted to put my spin on it and make it fun.” The hummus itself is glossy, with the faintest hint of grain, a heavy dose of garlic, a lighter touch of lemon, and a high rate of chickpea in the chickpea-to-tahini ratio. The spin Oztek-Pook speaks of is a pickled naga chilli oil, which adds smoky, fiery, slightly sweet complexity to the dish. It is then garnished with crispy chickpeas, which give crunch and texture. There is no pita or pide ekmek to dip with, but Bread by Bike’s sourdough is sliced thick enough to be up to the task. Lale had not eaten Indian food before moving to London: This hybrid dish truly is a London hummus.

Hummus @ Vrisaki

A list of where to eat hummus in London would be incomplete without a nod to the Cypriot immigrants who first brought the dish to the mouths of Londoners. Greek-Cypriot restaurant Vrisaki was opened in 1970 in the still Cypriot north London neighbourhood of Palmers Green, and where else can someone order a meze dish of hummus for £3.50? Cypriot hummus includes garlic in addition to lemon and tahini and it has a grainier texture than Lebanese hummus, closer to the Turkish variety that uses less tahini. Competing with the likes of tarama and tzatziki, it is loaded with garlic, though less so than the notoriously punchy tahini mezze (called tahini on the menu, but known in Greek as tashi.) If dining with a large group, it is best to order the hummus as part of the Vrisaski set meze, which offers a colossal amount of food for just £22.95, and can be followed by an equally generous main course servings of tsippoura (grey bream), keftedes (pork and beef meatballs), or kleftiko (lamb shank slow-cooked in white wine).

Hummus Beiruty @ Beit el Zaytoun

Opened in 2017, an Arabic sign outside Beit el Zaytoun reads “the form of the olives were different,” a lyric from a song by legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz. The decorative interiors and geometric-patterned tiles give an upmarket feel, but the prices remain reasonable. In addition to hummus (here, hommos) and hummus beiruty, there’s options for shawarma and minced lamb (bil lahme) toppings on the standard hummus. The ordinary hummus is softer and slightly sweeter, and bil lahme, it makes a pleasing contrast to the piquant meat and crunchy nuts. But the hummus beiruty is the winner here. It is relatively smooth, with some texture and bite, and an abundance of lingering herbal, spicy, garlicky flavour. Accompany it with a tamer hindi “mocktail,” whose tamarind acidity and rosewater fragrance makes for a refreshing contrast, and if not just there for the hummus, it is worth ordering from the “home cooking” section. The frikeh bil lahmeh (cracked green wheat with slow-cooked lamb shoulder) is particularly good.

Msabbaha bil Sujik @ Levant Book Cafe

Honoring the chickpea and fava bean breakfast traditions of Damascus at weekends, the msabbaha bil sujik is the standout dish here. Translated as “swimming,” somewhat confusingly, in most of the Levant, msabbaha refers to unblended warm hummus, but here it refers to the spicy minced lamb sujik mix that swims on a silky hummus base. Even with a lighter base, there is no denying it is a hearty, sapid dish. It’s only served at weekends, alongside tiseeya bil samneh, a riot of chickpeas and pita chips in a yogurt tahini sauce topped with spices and hot ghee, and ful bil zeit: fava beans in olive oil. The sweets programme, however, runs all week, and it isn’t to be missed. Try the halawat el-jibna semolina and cheese skin filled with orange blossom-flavoured clotted cream, ashta; knaffeh nablusyiah (made with semolina, the original version of the dish hails from the Palestinian city of Nablus), and the slightly chewy-textured pistachio ice-cream. One can also go home with some homemade fruit preserves and fermented chilli shatta imported from Damascus.

Hummus @ Hiba

The furnishings are unmistakablely Palestinian, but the menu admits to being both Lebanese and Palestinian. The hummus is not exactly velvety, but it isn’t meant to be. A nod to the Jerusalem tradition of hand grinding hummus, it is textural, zingy and flavorsome, and is set off wonderfully by fruity, pithy olive oil. Chilli sauce and garlicky toum come with every order, and adding some of each can pack an even further punch for diners wanting to get playful. The group’s other central branch, Hiba Street, offers a smoother style made with more tahini, and Hiba Taboun, their latest branch opened recently in Walthamstow, offers a different recipe still to go with its array of oven-baked breads.

Hummus @ Ali Baba Restaurant

Established in 1979, this family-run, Marylebone restaurant proudly advertises its commitment to Egyptian cuisine. The restaurant interior is cosy, and the walls are covered in paintings of historic Cairo’s bustling markets, and of course, the Nile. If eating at lunch, there are often more family members than customers, a gesture towards the intimacy of Egyptian hospitality. The hummus here is necessarily Egyptian-style: slightly more coarse in texture than its Lebanese or Syrian counterpart and tahini-heavy, and topped with a mild and fruity olive oil, the dish’s overall balance is excellent. Whilst the menu isn’t totally devoid of Lebanese influences, one can also order the very Egyptian dishes of mombar, where sausages are stuffed with tomato, chilli and dill rice; the garlicky molokhia soup made with Jew’s mallow; the carbohydrate triple threat of koshari’s rice, lentils, and macaroni with fried onions and spicy tomato sauce; and grilled quails.

Hummus @ Al Enam

On entering Al Enam, diners are immediately struck by the tanoor (clay oven) and grill. The tanoor bread and grilled meats are superb, but the hummus is equally worth a mention. According to the menu, it is prepared “according to the Iraqi recipe.” Whilst Baghdad is famous for a thicker, denser, variety of hummus, this version feels airy, light and fine, and its taste is astonishingly well-balanced. The Lebanese influence? Perhaps, but regardless, the quality of the dish is a welcome indicator of what may follow in a meal there. The lamb livers and lamb ouzi are particularly sensational. 

Pistachio Hummus @ Yada's Green Kitchen

Not one for the purists, but flavoured hummus is now part of Britain’s hummus landscape, and at this family-run Kurdish restaurant, an inventive version adds pistachio to create a unique hummus, which can be eaten with home-baked hajari bread. Slightly grainy, the irresistible flavor of pistachio is beautifully present without completely dominating the dish. The rest of Yadas’s menu does contain some tasty meat dishes, but is mostly a joyous ode to the wonders of Kurdish vegetarian cooking.

Hummus with burnt butter and pine nuts @ Bubala

London-born head chef Helen Graham’s success at Bubala has led to plans for a second location in Soho. Her halloumi with black seed honey has been widely celebrated in the media, but the hummus dish is equally impeccable. After much experimentation over the ideal chickpea-to-tahini ratio, the silkiest form has been masterly achieved. It is garnished with pine nuts, chickpeas, and less conventionally, nutty brown butter; an ingenious touch that is one of co-founder Marc Summers’s contributions to the menu. Laffa, an Iraqi flatbread here produced by Ararat, the lauded baker on Dalston’s Ridley Road Market, provides a wonderfully contrasting dipping device. It is soft and pillowy, but with slightly charred crispiness on pockets of the surface.

Hummus @ Berenjak

Hummus is not an Iranian dish, though Iran’s geographical proximity to the Arabian Peninsula has led to its increasing popularity in the southern regions of the country, as well as Tehran. In London, it is as common to see hummus on an Iranian restaurant menu as it is to see one without it. Still, at a restaurant promising to reinterpret Tehran’s hole-in-the-wall eateries, one might not expect to see hummus on the mazeh section. Berenjak’s hummus is certainly a reinterpretation, with its texture closer to parfait than to a classic hummus, and as the sesame-laced taftoon bread baked in a clay tanoor just minutes before arrives to the table, there’s a definite sense of expectation. The mix combines black chickpeas with Aleppo pepper and green raisins, in addition to tahini and lemon juice. It is adorned with grated and chopped walnuts, and flavour-wise, the dip is layered with quintessentially Iranian fragrant and slightly sweet tones. As the scent of saffron wafts by, and Farsi-language music blasts from the speakers, the frankly delicious dish gets headier and headier.

Anan @ Rochelle Canteen

From the school of “less is more,” Eyal Jagermann and Tomer Hauptmann, are creating the first hummus-centered restaurant since the closure of chain group Hummus Bros in 2018. It will be a totally different beast to Hummus Bros, however, with freshness, quality, and simplicity the guiding principles for the duo from The Palomar. Jagermann was first trained at Cafe Italia in Tel Aviv and carries the Italian attention to ingredients into his approach. At the Barbary, he found himself negotiating between his desire to strip down and the Machenyuda group’s eccentric, big-flavour cooking. Anan will be his chance to do things his way, and Hauptmann shares a similar philosophy. Inspired by the style of hummus created in the Arab Galilee, where they have been researching over the past couple years, their promise is to “design a system where hummus has been mixed and grounded no more than an hour ago.” Anan is the word for “cloud” in both Arabic and Hebrew, and their hummus is as light, fluffy and airy as the word suggests. Anan will open in the summer in a yet-to-be-revealed location, but for the eager, Rochelle Canteen will be hosting a pop-up on 18 May 2022.

Hummus with naga pickle chilli oil and crispy chickpeas @ The Nook

London’s (natural) wine bar scene is ever growing, and hummus features on many menus. The Nook opened in July 2020, and the kitchen is headed up by Ankara-born Lale Oztek-Pook, who moved to London when she was 25. After training at Cordon Bleu and working in Italian restaurants, at The Nook she began cooking the Turkish food of her heritage, with some twists. She told Eater, “In London, in a wine bar, hummus is going to be popular. I wanted to put my spin on it and make it fun.” The hummus itself is glossy, with the faintest hint of grain, a heavy dose of garlic, a lighter touch of lemon, and a high rate of chickpea in the chickpea-to-tahini ratio. The spin Oztek-Pook speaks of is a pickled naga chilli oil, which adds smoky, fiery, slightly sweet complexity to the dish. It is then garnished with crispy chickpeas, which give crunch and texture. There is no pita or pide ekmek to dip with, but Bread by Bike’s sourdough is sliced thick enough to be up to the task. Lale had not eaten Indian food before moving to London: This hybrid dish truly is a London hummus.

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