★★★★ | Arabica, Kings Cross, London
The Kings Cross neighbourhood continues its renaissance with more and more shops and restaurants opening up, and with new apartment and offices sprouting up like weeds. Also new to this area is Arabica.
Arabica, situated on a corner facing the establishing and pleasantly calm, green space known as Lewis Cubitt Gardens, is slightly away from the hustle and bustle of Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square in this rapidly developing area.
One of six branches in London, Arabica brings food, ingredients and more from the Middle East to London for food and flavours that are delicious and flavourful. The Kings Cross location, open only for four months, is one large room with an open plan kitchen with bar and is a sleek and calm environment with service and food to match. Anyone from a single diner, couples or larger groups would feel comfortable at Arabica, with seating arrangements appropriate for all.
Open seven days a week (the Borough Market location as well), Arabica is open for brunch, lunch and diner. It was the brunch menu that we tried, and we were treated to a combination of dishes which brought a potpourri of smells and flavours to our noses and tastebuds.
The Arabica Fry Up (£10) was just that – Rookery farm eggs (cooked over easy soft), house-cured lamb bacon, beef sujuk, roasted tomato, chestnut mushroom, Za’atar (Persian) bread, served in a small frying pan, and is one delicious dish. The beef sausage and the lamb bacon (rather like mini lamb steaks) were very very good (though a bit too salty), with watercress in the pan to give the dish a bit of colour and zest. While not 100% filling it’s perfect for those who like it all but don’t want to feel too full and bloated.
The Turkish-Style Fried Eggs dish was simple yet flavoursome (£9). Fried Rookery farm eggs with roasted peppers, aubergine, tomato, herbs, and crispy shallots was a bit similar to the fry up, except substituting roasted peppers, aubergines and shallots for the meat, and with parsley sprinkled on top for the green look, with a serving of beef sujuk – slices of a mildly spiced beef sausage – were an excellent accompaniment to this satisfying and tasty dish. Very seasonal and very good.
But the stand out dish was the Moorish Buckwheat Pancakes. A snip at only £7.50, the three large pancakes were amazing. Topped with sweet caramelised bananas, salted date honey caramel, with roasted pecans generously sprinkled on top, and with orange blossom cream which brought together tastes that were very delicious. The pancakes have a great flavour and texture (buckwheat) that make them so very very unique with each mouthful as satisfying as the last. Highly recommended. Other brunch choices include the Breakfast Pide and the Halloumi & Herb Tortilla (both £9).
The Turkish Coffee was thick and aromatic as hoped, with the cardamom flavour clearly and pleasantly evident from first to final sip. The Turkish Delight served alongside this was a lovely touch, and among the best I have sampled, with pistachio nuts and pomegranate molasses providing a sticky, chewy treat, which was not overly sweet.
Perhaps a visit for dinner is in order just to be able to eat dishes from the Hot Mezze selection (Steak & Bone Marrow Pita and Lamb Kibbeh are some of the highlights), the Clay Oven choices (Babaganoush Man’Ousheh and the Lahmacun – Turkish pizza with spiced lamb), or the Charcoal Menu (Berbere Spiced Cauliflower, Beef Shish, and the Chicken & Pistachio Shish), as well as the Vegetable and Grains section which all sound very very delicious and very very healthy.
The cocktails, though we didn’t try any, also sound amazing, from the Turkish Delight (Vodka, hibiscus liqueur, strawberry & rosewater jam, vanilla aquafaba – £9) to the Pomegranate Margarita (yummy – £11), or the Halva Daiquiri (Dark rum, fig & hazelnut liqueur, ginger syrup, lime, tahini aquafaba, walnut bitters – wow – £12) or perhaps the Turkish Coffee Martini (£10) which will no doubt blow your socks off.
The selection of fresh, delicious and very very good food are some of the reasons I’d go back to Arabica, whether the Kings Cross of the other restaurant locations (Borough), Selfridges (Food Hall) or to the Market stall locations (Borough again, Southbank and Real Food Markets). Great service, beautiful looking food, and a generally warm feeling all over are other reasons I’d go back.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.