‘Bubala’, which is Yiddish for ‘darling’, is the debut vegetarian restaurant from Marc Summers, former manager at Berber & Q. Following a year of springing up across London as a pop-up, selling out supper clubs and garnering support, it’s a very personal venture that pays homage to his Middle Eastern heritage, with a location close to where his grandparents grew up on Brick Lane and Commercial Road.
This intimate 30-seat restaurant is bright and atmospheric, with white walls, wooden furniture and green accents of foliage, and it has some good sustainable touches – the pale marble-effect bar is made from recycled materials suspended in resin, and the house wines – from Puglia, when Brummell visited – are on tap to save shipping costs, glass and storage. There’s an inventive, home-grown feel that belongs here in Shoreditch.
This is made up of sharing plates, with dishes from Lebanon, Yemen and the Middle East. Creamy ful medames (bean dip) comes with a zesty lovage pesto and yoghurt, served with flame-grilled malawach (traditional pancakes). There are aubergines, of course, fried and balanced out with zhoug (spicy cilantro sauce) and date syrup. There is angel hair pastry in place of croutons on a crispy fattoush salad – yes, everything is indulgent, but wonderfully balanced, so you won’t feel too guilty. The star of the show was a shitake mushroom kebab, marinated in soy, coriander and maple and then flame-grilled: these pouches of juicy, salty-sweetness would comfort any former meat eater who is missing the taste of lamb.
The wines are mainly from the Middle East and Lebanon, but there’s a decent Chenin by Mother Rock, South Africa and a deliciously light but rounded house red from Puglia. The orange wines are a good choice for those who prefer their wine at the herbier end. Beers are from Redchurch and Pressure Drop.
The set menu costs £30 a head, and includes a good balance of big hitters (halloumi, aubergine, hummous and labneh, ful medames and more). Drinks start at £5 for a glass of wine or a beer, £8.50 for a cocktail and range up to £65 for a bottle of 2017 Garnacha.
A welcome vegetarian addition to London’s roster of Middle Eastern restaurants that hits every taste bud with its inventive, balanced combinations.
Bubala, 65 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6BD; bubala.co.uk