With dishes as bright and breezy as the azure blue coastline and flavoured with all the promise of the East – rose water, pomegranates and sensational spices – it’s no wonder London has fallen under the spell of Levantine food.
We are spoilt for choice, with fabulous restaurants offering incredible food from Turkey to Tel Aviv, and everywhere in between.
From the mighty meze to succulent seafood and dreamy desserts, here are the 10 best Eastern Mediterranean dishes for you to try in London right now.
Meze doesn’t get better than perfectly made lebneh, a thick, strained yogurt that has a sweetish flavour a little like cream cheese.
It’s basically banging, and at Morito on Hackney road, they serve theirs with crispy fried chickpeas, a drizzle of chilli butter and a louche showering of dukkah.
Spoiler alert, dunking is made possible via blackened flatbreads.
Roasted to perfection and served whole (or in smaller portions), the cauliflower shawarma at Berber and Q is a serious contender for London’s best vegetarian dish.
Influenced by the dazzling dining scene in Tel Aviv, the mighty veg comes to your table doused in thick tahini and bejewelled with fragrant rose petals, vibrant pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and herbs.
If you’re not drooling already, then something’s wrong.
Get ready to dive face first into this moreish Eastern Mediterranean meal.
Made with a blend of spiced beef and lamb, fried up and sat in a pool of tahini, which is then covered in fiery harissa and a fragrant preserved lemon paste.
Puffy pittas allow you to build a sarnie to scoff at leisure; unctuous comfort food at its best.
Cancel your dinner plans and get down to the second site by The Good Egg guys in Soho right now.
It’s a cool space with a great atmosphere and a lip-smackingly good menu.
Best of all, it serves short rib shawarma; succulent slithers of juicy lamb piled high with pickled cabbage, charred peppers and the classic combo of tahini and zhoug – a verdant Yemenite salsa.
Inspired by sfeehas – little semolina snacks stuffed with meat that are found all over the Middle East – this modern twist from Bala Baya is just divine.
They roast a forequarter of lamb for 8 hours until it falls apart and use this as the filling for the dumplings.
These are served on a slick of garlic-yogurt, with burnt butter, pine nuts and fresh spring onions.
Charred to perfection until silky and soft, and combined with a dreamy mix of creamy labneh that’s been spiked with maple syrup and chilli, sweet roasted peppers and a wickedly tangy chimichurri, these vibrant aubergines are everything I love about Eastern Mediterranean food.
Seftali are Cypriot spiced sausages that use a lamb’s stomach lining to wrap the meat, keeping it wonderfully juicy.
Oklava’s rather refined version is flavoured with plenty of smoky pul biber pepper flakes and then prepared kebab-style, lying on thin flat breads and covered in parsley and succulent slithers of red onion, macerated in lemon juice and sumac.
For a finger-lickin’ experience that would make the Colonel blush, it’s all about the za’atar-flavoured, crispy squid at Delamina.
The ravishing rings come on a bed of tomato concasse that gives a wonderful sweet-tang.
it also makes for great dunking.
With only 25 seats, getting into The Barbary can be tricky, but with tentacles this tasty it’s well worth it.
I would even ditch my date for a spare seat.
The clever chefs braise the octopus until tender in orange and bay leaf, and then sear it over a very high heat to char.
It’s buttery soft and smoky, and comes with a mashawsha; hummus really, but made with whole chickpeas.
A stranger dish to describe, there isn’t one; kunefe is a very old Arabic dessert thought to originate in the Palestinian city of Nablus, where it’s still prepared daily in the wonderful Ottoman souk.
The pudding is made by layering pastry, cut as fine as rice noodles, with a filling of stringy, white cheese.
This is cooked in sugar syrup until crisp and decorated with vibrant green, ground pistachios. If you are feeling wild, try it with a scoop of kaymakli – clotted cream – melted over the top.