Arabica Bar & Kitchen

  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
© Kris Piotrowski
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One of London's new-wave Middle Eastern-inspired cafés but with leather banquettes, cocktails and an unhurried restaurant experience; great meze.

With its fashionable buzz and lively energy, there’s no other Levantine restaurant in London quite like Arabica. The setting at this enclave of proper Middle Eastern cooking in Borough Market is neither ‘Arabian Nights’ theme park nor brightly lit marble palace. The room has lots of bare brick and steel – it’s a Victorian arch, after all – but the lighting’s low and atmospheric.

A French map from the 1960s on the wall shows ‘Asie Occidentale’ with the Levantine countries hightlighted in yellow: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. In those days, Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East – a playground for the rich and cosmopolitan. It was a golden age, and a moment in history that this new restaurant in Borough Market tries to recapture.

Muhummara is a dip that, once discovered, can become as addictive as swaying your hips to rai music. Roasted red peppers, here with toasted nuts, form a rough paste which in its native Aleppo is then flavoured in many variations. The versions I’ve had in Syria and Turkey were far hotter; but this one, though lacking the full drama of flavours, was spicy enough.

Meze dishes are the highlight of Lebanese cooking, and here the fried snacks such as lamb or spinach kibbeh – which look a bit like scotch eggs – were excellent.

The vegetarian dishes are inventive; baby pickled aubergine is stuffed with red pepper and walnut for the attractively textured dish called magdous.

Sit at the polished concrete bar, and you can watch the kitchen at work. Flatbreads are pulled from the searing-hot clay oven: our favourite was lahmacun (a Turkish/Armenian crisp ‘pizza’ with spiced lamb), while the man’ousheh breads were chewier and had a distinctive flavour: the bitter hint of Jordanian thyme in the za’atar spice mix.

Arabica joins the new wave of London’s Middle Eastern-inspired cafés, but goes one better with leather banquettes, cocktails and an unhurried restaurant experience, which would satisfy any modern TE Lawrence. There’s no need to ‘yalla yalla’ (‘hurry up’ ) here, as service is attentive and welcoming.

On the wine list, Israel cosies up next to Lebanon with bottles from the Bekaa Valley, while Arab, French and Turkish influences sit comfortably together on the menu. Arabica might not be able to bring back the ‘golden age’ of the Levant, but its menu gives it a good go.

Venue name: Arabica Bar & Kitchen
Address: 3 Rochester Walk
Opening hours: Mon-Fri open 11am-11pm; meals served noon-3.30pm; 5.30-11pm. Sat open 11am-11pm; meals served noon-11pm.
Transport: London Bridge tube
Price: Meal for two with wine and service: around £85.

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Charly L
moderatorStaff Writer

Great venue and lovely food.  Really nice laid back vibe.  Tables were a bit close together - I definitely agree with Simon P - it felt quite claustrophobic.  If I went again I would sit outside where possible.

Simon P

On the whole Arabica is worth a visit. Went last Saturday night without a reservation, waited at an outside table for 30 mins, so not too bad. I was with a Spanish friend who noticed they had a very good bottle of Spanish red listed, so we duly ordered with a bowl of Kalamata olives whilst we was very good. Once inside there is little to identify this restaurant as middle eastern inspired, not a belly dancer in sight! tables are quite close to each other so felt a bit claustrophobic. Lighting good so a nice atmosphere. We ordered, I think it was 6 tapas style dishes, all were delicious, but in my opinion way too small. I personally could have quite easily devoured another 6 by myself, so if you have a good appetite, expect a sizeable bill. I was really impressed by the staff, very attentive and friendly but not overly so. Rather disappointed at the end of the evening when I tried to order an espresso but was told the kitchen was closed...What! But ultimately I guess I would return, just to try some of the other dishes which I'm sure are as tasty as the ones we had. Damage was £73 but I was STILL hungry.

Juliette W

I went for a nice dinner with my husband and we absolutely loved it!

The restaurant itself is beautiful, great style and atmosphere; old school chairs, stunning bar, good lay out; but we particularly loved the fact that you can see the kitchen from anywhere in the restaurant, it’s all open and with the great tunes playing in the background we really enjoyed it!

The food was simply delicious!! Nothing to fault… cooked to perfection, great portion, unusual dishes (at least to me), very nicely presented. 

Drinks were also very nice. We had a couple of cocktails before food which we really liked! The barmen were very good in explaining the drinks as well as understanding us and what we’d like!

Staff in general were very good. The nicest thing was that they knew the food menu and could actually explained what they were serving!

Overall a great experience! I’ve already told my friends about this place and we will definitely be coming back!


I went along with a friend and ate at the bar, the interiors of the restaurant was warm and inviting with some fabulous features. The staff were lovely and gave us a glass of water as soon as we sat down which was a nice touch, the owner of the restaurant even came over to see how our meal was which I thought was great. All the food was amazing, a great menu especially if you like sharing. For me I will never forget the Chicken & Pistachio Taouk washed down with a gorgeous cocktail recommended by the staff called the Rania's Spritz, you must try! Overall great meal, relaxed interiors and very nice staff, I will certainly visit again next time I am in that part of town!.

Superstar Donkey Jockey
Staff Writer

A small party of three of us went on a Tuesday evening at 7pm, without a booking. We were told there would be a one hour wait for a table by a barely concious waitress. We were offered a small round table near the bar with stools to wait at, which upon enquiring were told yes, we could eat there if we wished. Why not offer that as an option in the first place? We nearly left to go somewhere else before we learnt that.

We sat and a different waitress came to offer us menus and take our drinks order. After becoming excited by the prospect of a 7% Lebanese Pale Ale craft beer plus two specialist beer options on tap we were (bluntly) told they had no beer. Nothing. Nada. NO BEER AT ALL! No apology. And this was at 7pm! The restaurant is literally just behind Utobeer in Borough Market. At what point did they realise they were running out of beer? Why not pop to their neighbour to buy some so at least they could offer some alternative beers? Utobeer beer sell some rather excellent beers so there would have been a good choice. Sigh... we opted for the French cider instead which was very nice, but not our first choice.

Next we order food, from yet another waitress. It is kind of tapas style so we ordered two plates each, 6 deliberately different options in total to share between us. The next bombshell was yet another member of staff coming to tell us they had run out of one of the lamb dishes we ordered! It get's better.The kitchen recommended the chicken wings as a good alternative! Chicken wings instead of lamb! No thank you we said, we'll have the lamb and beef koftas, which did turn out to be nice.

While waiting for food to arrive we were discussing the experience while supping on our cider. We concluded that they are  still bedding-in so are suffering with "new restaurant syndrome". Hopefully they will iron some of these problems out soon but as one of us who works in the trade said, why didn't they start with soft openings? That is what they are for, to identify problems and iron them out. Instead we suffer the result while paying full price. We also commented on the humourless and depsondent looking waitresses, one of whom said she couldn't wait for her shift to finish because she was so tired.

The food was ok, some of it quite good, but I thought it was pricey and left still hungry after spending £33 with cider. We did notice that the only wine glass size is 125ml, which is quite small. The next step up is a half bottle carafe and then a bottle. Odd not to have any other glass sizes.

In summary none of us shall be returning in a hurry, if at all. Myself, I shall check the reviews next year to see how they are doing and make my mind up then.