Words Hannah Hopkins
Middle Eastern food is having a moment, with a burst of new places like Honey & Smoke and Le Bab bringing complex plates to the masses. But it’s Josh Katz’s Berber & Q which has set the bar high. It opened in 2015 within the railway arches of Haggerston and serves delectable Middle Eastern and North African food in the capital.
Having previously worked at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, Ottolenghi and Zest, Katz combines his varied skill set and influences from all over the world – London, Marrakech, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and New York – to create pitch-perfect food mash-ups.
This combo of cultures is reflected in the restaurant itself. The outside is clad with rusted and corrugated metal sheets and inside the open kitchen serves as a backdrop. This lends it a New York City vibe. Diners eat on communal sharing tables made from railway sleepers. Everything is overhung with lights made from sheet metal. It’s ideal for sharing good food with a good group of friends. Especially if you are looking for somewhere fun and informal.
With the open mangal, charcoal grill and smoker at the centre of the cooking, the menu is split into various sections. Choose either ‘Meat’, ‘Pickles’, ‘Mezze’, ‘Sandwiches’ and ‘Sweets’. Everything comes served on communal mess trays. You can see how Katz’s exploration of Mangal restaurants in Turkey, the kebab houses of Istanbul and food stalls of Jmaa el Fna in Marrakech have influenced the food. The menu includes signature ‘Meats’ like lamb Mechoui (pulled forequarter of lamb). As well as fennel seed & paprika smoked pork belly.
Along with two choices from the meat menu we’re recommended the blackened aubergine with walnut and tahini. We also opt for the cauliflower shawarma. Messy and delicious, they’re the perfect complement to the richer meat dishes. Drinks are also Middle Eastern. We choose the hilariously-named Scammed in Marrakesh Punch and Haggerstoned. Both are a steal at £7 each. Desserts include rose Malabi and saffron rice pudding with green pistachio. They are the perfect end note to a meal that is all about simplicity, no fuss and no pomposity.
Berber & Q Arch 338, Acton Mews, E8; 020 7923 0829