As the rain beats down on the window of the taxi, I’m dreading the short skip to the restaurant across the road. But then, as if by magic, through the downpour appears a man yielding a huge umbrella. It’s the Maitre D’ from the restaurant I’m about to review, waiting to escort me into the warm. A good start to the evening!
Once inside, and dry, I take a look around and inhale the rich smell of spices that wafts through the air. I’m at Yamal Alsham – the new jewel in the crown of Knighstbridge restaurants – a venue offering an inspired Lebanese and Syrian culinary experience. Nestled in the shadows of Harrods and Harvey Nicks, this laid back lounge and kitchen is a destination for exhausted shoppers needing a pick-me-up during the day, and gastronomes in search of authentic cuisine in luxurious surroundings by night.
Owner and Head Chef Elie Raja sources only the freshest ingredients, with produce delivered daily for a menu which combines the sophistication and subtleties of European cuisine with the exotic ingredients of the Middle and Far East. Meat is all British reared, but Halal certified, as befits the Eastern menu.
The menu at Yamal Alsham mixes authentic dishes with modern influences to create a culinary journey for the palate and senses. Try the creamiest hummus you’ve ever tasted as part of a mezze starter served with a selection of falafel, tabboule and stuffed vine leaves, followed by mouth-wateringly delicate kafta lamb skewers, or the house dish of chicken kabsi – a rich marinated chicken served with spiced rice and topped with nuts and raisins.
The meals at Yamal Alsham are full of robust, earthy flavours and feature traditional dishes as well some modern takes on old favourites. From the perennially-popular Mousakka, Fatoush and Baba Ganoush to a tempting selection of hot mezze favourites such as Kibbeh and Fatayer, the menu offers the very best of Lebanese and Syrian cuisine, rich with fresh and flavourful ingredients. Prices are reasonable for the area. Around £6 for a mezze dish, an upwards of £15 for a main course.
Complementing the cuisine, Yamal Alsham offers an impressive wine list that features favourites from Lebanon and the Mediterranean. My recommendation would be the house red though. At just £21.50 a bottle it’s as good a tipple as you’ll find on the best of Mayfair’s wine lists. The bar also stocks Grey Goose and Remy Martin amongst the spirits selection, and staff are happy to tailor a cocktail to your personal preference.
The restaurant’s décor, with traditional paintings complemented by modern blue/white lighting, echoes the diverse menu we have just devoured, combining the richness of Old Lebanon with an attitude and style that is unmistakably London. Finish it all off with a traditional Arabian coffee, or Café Patron coffee tequila, and you’ll leave one very happy, and full, diner!