We’ll walk down Koshari Street any time: mega-filling, mega-tasty, mega-cheap. It’s the closest thing in the West End to a free lunch.
London may have swooned for Ottolenghi and Yalla Yalla, but this homage to Egypt’s hole-in-the-wall koshari vendors, from food writer and champion of Levantine cooking Anissa Helou, is still a brave move. The small, pristine space with a stainless steel counter is slightly reminiscent of a school canteen: there are a handful seats along one wall. This is really a takeaway joint, with a menu only a shade more varied than it would be at a stall in Cairo or Alexandria.
Warming, comforting and many-layered, koshari is falafel’s more substantial older brother – a solid, simple dish of lentils, pasta, vermicelli and rice topped with tomato sauce and fried onions. That’s it. Helou’s version comes in mild, hot and ‘mad’ (it’s not really), plus a twist of her own doqqa recipe – ground spices, nuts and herbs.
Then there are a couple of plain salads, a daily soup (we had sharp, lemony lentil and chard with real depth of flavour), freshly pressed juices and traditional desserts – muhallabiyeh milk pudding and mishmishiya apricot purée, the former creamy and laced with rosewater like a grown-up version of a Wall’s Mini Milk, the latter an intense shot of fruit like a blast of summer sunshine.
Service in the early days of opening was haphazard, but charming. Let them iron out the wrinkles, and London may swoon again for this simplest of Middle Eastern menus.