London’s Hidden Treasure: Yalla Yalla, Beirut Street Food
If you walk too briskly in the streets of Soho in London’s West End, you are more than likely to miss the hidden treasure known as Yalla Yalla, a packed Lebanese restaurant where you can relax in a calming atmosphere framed by Arabic-painted walls, while indulging in the comforting delicacies of Middle Eastern street food.
Run by chef Jad Youssef, Yalla Yalla, which is an Arabic slang term meaning “‘let’s go!” or “hurry up!,” is all character. With wooden tables, cultural wall accents, cushions made out of scarves and all the mezzes you can stuff your face with, this quaint dine in or take out eatery will make you – and your wallet – feel at home.
Yalla Yalla is small, so over hearing your next door dining neighbor discuss how their date had the longest nose hairs in the world isn’t uncommon, but it doesn’t matter. This is a “street food” atmosphere, remember? Embrace it.
Despite the low key tag line and atmosphere, Yalla Yalla’s food is anything but mediocre. With hommos, baba ghanoouj and fattoush – a concoction of tomato, cucumber, onion, mint, radish and parsley tossed with crisp pita bread and sumac, as appetizers, you know that things can only go up from here.
And they do. While Middle Eastern cuisine is known for its trademark meat dishes, Yalla Yalla is an excellent choice for vegetarians (the menu denotes meat-free dishes with a simple “V”), with dishes like Halloum Moshoué, grilled Halloumie cheese with tomato, black olives, mint and olive oil and Fatayer Spinach, falafel and moussakaa mixed in with spicy Lebanese sausages known as soujoc and makalé samak, deep friend prawns, calamari and white bait with spring onions and minted Greek yoghurt.
While you eat and drink some tangy pomegranate lemonade, don’t be surprised to see patrons coming in and out of the store to pick up wraps and sandwiches, which are delicately placed on the counter at the front of the restaurant.
And if you thought you could leave without trying the dessert, you’ve come to the wrong place. Yalla Yalla’s dessert menu is mouth watering, with Lebanese specialties like baklava, mohalabiya, a fragrant milk pudding and knéfé, a warm Lebanese cheese and semolina cake flavored with orange blossom and served with rose petal ice cream.
While Yalla Yalla lives up to its namesake with its prompt service and no frills food, the last thing you’ll want to do is “hurry up” and leave, the restaurant is one place where the phrase “yalla bye,” wont be making an appearance any time soon.
Yalla Yalla – Beirut Street Food
1 Green’s Court Soho
2 minute walk from Piccadilly tube station