Dream tastes from the Eastern Med, with dips to make you swoon
03 October, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
A great range of tasty dishes from the Middle East at Arabica
THE story of King’s Cross feels never ending, with shiny new tower blocks still puncturing the skyline.
The statistics are mind-boggling: 20 new streets, 10 new public parks and squares, a whole new post code of N1C.
Recent construction has focused around Coal Drops Yard and Lewis Cubitt Park. Tech giant Facebook is leasing 600,000 square feet of new offices nearby.
This transformation brings new opportunities – especially for restaurateurs keen to expand.
Arabica is the latest to fling open its doors. This highly regarded restaurant serves up dishes from the Middle East and was first established in Borough Market. Their second place is at the base of the Aga Khan Centre in Handyside Street, a thoroughfare that runs from York Way behind Waitrose and Central St Martins.
It’s a gamble launching a new site like this, while the surroundings are still in a state of flux. But Arabica feels in safe hands. The design is stylish but restrained; the menu compelling; the cocktails, wines, beers expertly mixed and chosen.
A long cocktail bar runs down the right of the room then swoops left, past the open-plan kitchen and flickering clay oven.
A long, communal wooden table bisects the centre of the room; smaller tables and booths hug the edges. The main room seats around 70; the terrace outdoors another 40.
We perched on stools by the kitchen, sipping their Beiruti Sour – a frothy shake-up of bourbon, spiced sugar syrup, citrus juice, bitters and orange blossom water.
I can’t fault the menu design or keen prices. This is small plate territory, with each dish around £5-£10 each.
The dips section alone made me swoon. There’s a dreamy taramasalata, the palest pink in colour and served with ripples of olive oil, slices of pickled cucumber and fronds of dill.
There’s a fava, muhummara, moutabel and three types of hummus – ours a vivid green and topped with spinach leaves, sprouts and watercress. Scoop these onto handmade pitas or the Persian sangak bread, which has distinctive craters from being baked on pebbles.
The chefs are wonderfully generous with fresh herbs. Thick wedges of honeyed halloumi and Bursa black fig nestle in piles of mint, parsley and more dill.
Other hot mezze include puff pastry parcels with slow-braised beef cheek, a Levantine fish fry, mini falafel and a dreamy dish of Istanbul-style mussels – two skewers of the molluscs fried in a light tempura batter with a walnut tarator dip.
Their crisp flat breads are a specialty, with toppings such as Dorset clams and preserved lemon or ours – a zingy combination of smoked aubergine, tahini, herbs, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
The charcoal grill offers lamb ribs, Cornish squid, a chicken and pistachio shish and the obligatory spiced cauliflower. The meat is halal, British and excellent quality.
I’ll be back to see how Arabica evolves. The terrace will be a hot spot, looking out on yet another new vista – the Persian-inspired Jellicoe Gardens.
7 Lewis Cubitt Walk, N1C
020 3747 4422