Arabica KX is the second restaurant from James Walters, following on from the success of his Borough Market restaurant of the same name. Walters opened the first Arabica five years ago and since that time his Middle Eastern fare has won loyal fans for its distinct and delicious flavours. Like its predecessor, the King’s Cross branch focuses on Levantine food, from the Eastern Mediterranean region of the Middle East (encompassing Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon), but it also offers completely new dishes, flavours and ideas, and is one of the most exciting foodie launches the area has seen.
Arabica KX sits in the bottom of the Aga Khan Centre building, one of the new developments adjacent to Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. The interior has been designed by Gundry & Ducker and is light and spacious, with vintage flair and a gorgeous mix of teal leather, dark wood and natural, neutral tiles. The restaurant seats 66 and has an open bar and kitchen, adding to its warm buzzy feel. In summer, Arabica KX can also expand onto the terrace outside, adding another 44 covers.
The menu of the new King’s Cross restaurant is distinct from its Bermondsey counterpart, offering a whole new selection of Levant specialities. What the new restaurant does have in common with the original is a broad range of dishes, making it fantastic for vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans and meat eaters alike. There is a selection of dips, snacks, hot meze, dishes from the clay oven and charcoal grill.
Arabica Borough is famous for its hummus with lamb and ghee and the King’s Cross restaurant adds to this collection of elevated chickpea dips with a version that comes with spicy beef, a hummus ‘KX’ made with peppers, red chilli, and roasted spiced chickpeas, and a super green hummus with spinach, sprouting pulses and basil zhug (a kind of spicy pesto).
It’s worth crossing London for the hummus alone, but happily Arabica KX serves a range of other delicacies you’ll want to order. The Istanbul-style mussels are fragrant, fresh and crisp under a light tempura, while the moutabel of smoked aubergine, tahini and pomegranate is the perfect balance of umami, sharp acid and nutty sesame. Be sure to order something from the restaurant’s clay oven: the baba ganoush man’ousheh is a delicious, Lebanese-style flat bread with smoked aubergine, while the mushroom and truffle man’ousheh is an indulgent flatbread covered in halloumi, ricotta, white truffle oil and peppery rocket. From the charcoal grill, the grilled Cornish squid, Galloway beef and berbere-spiced cauliflower make the most of the flavours of the grill and are perfectly paired with the standout house salad, which comes with a tangy orange-blossom vinaigrette, barrel-aged feta and Cretan barley rusks. To finish, it’s hard to see past the kunefe, a pastry stuffed with cream cheese, syrup and pistachios, or the baklava selection, but the choice of soft-serve ice cream is also worth trying, especially the affogato, which comes with Turkish coffee and cardamom honeycomb.
To drink, try one of the wines on the well-curated list, which has a good range from Lebanon, Greece and Turkey. The cocktails are also superb, and include the Beiruti Sour, made with Four Roses small batch bourbon, baharat syrup (baharat is a spice blend of cinnamon, coriander seeds and cloves), orange blossom, egg white and bitters; and the Smoke & Spice, made with mezcal, Ancho Reyes chilli liqueur, Cointreau and grapefruit. The drinks menu also features a range of original sodas, including a refreshing Lebanese lemonade made with cardamom syrup, orange blossom, mint and soda, and an apple iced tea made with dried apple, Lapsang tea, cinnamon, clove syrup and lemon.
A meal with a selection of sharing dishes, cocktails and a bottle of wine is around £100.
Arabica KX is a fantastic addition to the ever-improving dining scene around Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard. Eating there is a flavourful and fun experience and the effort put in to differentiate the restaurant from its Bermondsey sister makes it worth a pilgrimage, even if you’re familiar with the first Arabica.
7 Lewis Cubitt Walk, N1C 4AD; arabicalondon.com/kings-cross