This Lebanese restaurant is growing in fame not only because it is successfully opening pop-up subsidiaries in a number of areas in London but because Yalla Yalla is known for being cheap, good quality and one of those trendy restaurants that doesn’t take bookings.
We were hungry but decided to make the most of Soho happy hour so did not get to the restaurant until well after 8pm, at this point we were in need of food. Unfortunately however this was peak time for Yalla Yalla and so there was a long queue and to make matters worse there was nowhere to wait inside so we had to stand outside on a very cold January evening in London Brrrr. If it hadn’t been so cold it wouldn’t have been too bad, I still like the trend of the non booking restaurants as it makes the evening relaxed and curbs my control freakery to an extent. My friends however kept bringing up the subject of moving somewhere else but I was stubbornly determined, which was also helped by the fact that we were being served drinks while we stood outside. It did get a little too cold however and I did ask numerous times on the wait, to which we were told 20 minutes when in fact we waited at least an hour possibly more. Had we been told this we probably won’t have waited and I am glad we did but I don’t like to be told a time and it is much longer; that is just annoying. To be fair on the waitresses they couldn’t really judge as there were only about ten tables so it is much harder to judge timings than if a bigger space. The waitresses were polite and understanding in our frustrations so this worked in its favour.
Eventually after we had resorted to standing by the toilets just so that we were not standing outside we were seated, at first on a table of two (there was four of us) but then swiftly moved on to the table next to us so that all four of us could sit comfortably together. We ordered a meze selection as starter of spicy Lebanese sausage, deep fried lamb and cracked wheat parcels and a third dish of deep fried tiger prawns, calamari and white bait with spring onions, crispy aubergine and chilli minted Greek yoghurt. The sausage was really spicy and juicy although a little tough, the minced lamb parcels were delicious but I found the pastry quite think in ratio to the mince meat and onion filling. The seafood dish was our favourite as the mix of prawns, calamari and white bait looked as well as tasted scrumptious. The white bait, which I often avoid as can easily be greasy in restaurants was crispy and light and not rich or greasy at all. The prawns, although slightly overcooked, were meaty and covered in middle eastern spices and the calamari was not too tough. All the dishes were served in thick white and blue pottery dishes which added to the Lebanese theme.
For main course we all ordered the mixed grill, which comprised of a chicken skewer, lamb and beef kafta with grilled tomato, sumac, parsley and red pepper salad. This was smaller in portion than the meze starter so it looked fairly disappointing in comparison but saying that after the heavy starter it was a relief. The chicken, lamb, beef kafta and tomato were charcoaled, which added to the intense Lebanese taste but I am afraid to say the meat was well overcooked both for the lamb and the chicken so it was tough although the kafta was nice as this takes well to a long grilling. We had a mix of red Argentinean wine and cocktails throughout which probably wasn’t the wisest choice to sample this restaurant for the first time but I am afraid the cocktails on an empty stomach were the reasons for this.
The service here is fast efficient yet friendly, the waitresses did not rush you although were always available when needed. The wait is probably the only niggle and as I said at least this allowed us to properly catch up and was a special experience. The food was full of flavour and satisfying although some of the dishes were overcooked. Yalla Yalla for comfort, authenticity yet commercial ease gets:
Food Atmosphere Service