It had to happen, didn’t it? We’ve had gourmet burgers, gourmet hot dogs and gourmet fried chicken. So when we heard about this purveyor of posh kebabs, it was less a case of us asking ‘What?’ and more ‘What took them so long?’
The backstory is pure junk food-to-jewels. Two chaps meet at uni. Bond over ‘a mutual fascination with the ancient gastronomy of kebabs’ (their words – seriously). Decide one day to ‘go gourmet’. Do the sensible thing and get experience via ‘stages’ (chef internships) at Michelin-starred restaurants and even a stint at Le Gavroche (where they’ll later hire their chefs from). Launch street food operation. And finally, move to a small, permanent Soho spot. Cue our visit. It was Saturday night, so we had to go away for 45 minutes until a table came up. But hey, it was worth the wait.
The kebabs are beautiful. They have an almost Scandinavian look, being served ‘open sandwich’-style, the contents painstakingly arranged over a thin, house-made flatbread. It almost seems a pity to roll them up. Fillings change with the seasons, with preserved, charred and fermented ingredients adding to the Nordic vibe. We loved ‘roe deer adana’, with its peppery chunks of robata-grilled meat, fragrant juniper berries, blackberry and chilli jam, and even a sour cavolo nero ‘kimchi’. The other ’bab we tried, a ‘free range pork shawarma’ with crunchy crackling and pork aioli, was nice enough but a touch oily; it needed more ‘winter salad’ (beetroot, radish, cabbage).
In fact, the best thing about Le Bab isn’t the posh 'babs. Sure, they’re good, but if you want your proverbial socks knocked off, hit all the small plates. Highlights for us included the mind-blowingly delicious ‘meatlafel’ (a crunchy-edged patty of chickpea and red meat served over lightly garlicky tzatziki), the ‘fondue fries’ (hand-cut, skin-on chips with a subtle stout-and-stilton dip) and the outstanding endive and pomegranate salad (a glorious mix of sharp, crunchy, sweet and salty).
Staff are clued-up and genial, while the small room – its plain centre bordered by pretty blue-and-white tiles – makes you feel like you’re eating inside a jewellery box. So until someone starts up an artisanal pork pie restaurant, Le Bab will do nicely.