Bloggers and critics are going wild over this place to such an extent that my levels of FOMO (fear of missing out) have reached an all-time high. Or rather, they had reached an all-time high until last night; when I threw timing caution to the wind and set off to Greens Court, Soho – to Yalla Yalla.
Timing caution? Yes, Yalla Yalla is another addition to the non-reservation policy restaurant crew, another establishment where you have to rock up and hope for the best. Well, as my father always used to tell me, ‘the early bird catches the worm,’ and it was with this in mind that we set off for a 6.15 p.m supper. We? My good friend Sophie (see Duck + Waffle) and I. This was our fourth dinner date since reconnecting last August and since our last meeting Sophie has had a rather exciting personal development.
Yes, Sophie is engaged. I know, very grown up. Yes, those are ALL diamonds. Yalla Yalla was to be our ‘I said yes’ celebratory restaurant, so arriving to be told ‘no,’ wasn’t entirely satisfactory. Well a ‘no’ for half an hour – apparently there were earlier birds than us and with a restaurant that size there didn’t need to be many of them. It only seats around 15. Undeterred, we put our names down and went for a wander around Soho.
We popped into a café near Duck Lane and I tried to order Sophie a glass of champagne – they didn’t have any. I settled with buying her a glass of the best white and then demanded to know ‘absolutely everything’ about the proposal. Rome, Vatican, a fountain – it was the stuff of classic literature and I was utterly absorbed. So absorbed in fact, that I was caught rather off guard when she asked me to be…
I know – a real bridesmaid! After all the years of watching my sister be asked again and again, now it’s my turn! Not that a wedding is about the bridesmaid, it’s about the bride, it’s about the bride, Alice. Still, I am exceptionally excited.
After a few toasts and clinks, we finished the Sauvignon and returned to Yalla Yalla – only to find that our table had been taken by another party. I had misinterpreted the waitress, it was indeed a half an hour wait, but what I hadn’t realised was that you had to wait there.
Another 15-minutes lay ahead of us, but this time a nice little table underneath a heated lamp had been vacated, and we sat there – and ordered two Beirut Mules.
Yalla Yalla is leading the field in a new (to London) culture of cuisine – Lebanese and Middle-Eastern street food. Given the menu to look at as we sat outside, we poured over the exotic dishes excitedly and by the time our table was ready we had chosen.
We wanted to try as much as possible, so opted out of having mains and instead went for a range of the Mezze dishes: Halloum Meshoué, Hommos, Swada Djej, Makalé Samak and Kibbé Nayyé.
This was scrummy – still warm from the grill it had the perfect bite; semi-melted and not too dry and chewy
Served with pitta bread, the hummus held more citrus notes than its supermarket equivalent. This worked well with the other dishes – refreshing the palate between our sampling.
Chicken liver, unless in a pâté, is normally a ‘no,no’ on the order front – but on the menu this dish came with a little recommendation – and if something’s recommended, well you have to try it! And thank goodness it was recommended, for this was by far the best dish of the night. First you are hit first by a wave of sweet, sour pomegranate-infused sauce and then by the meaty, homely and wintery-warming taste of the livers. The combination is a match made in heaven.
An assortment of whitebait, tiger prawns and calamari rested on two slithers of aubergine. This dish transported you from the streets of Soho to a summer’s lunch by the ocean – the fish so fresh it felt that it had been hooked just hours before. Crisp but not too oily, cooked but not over-cooked – the chef got this timed to perfection.
We had chosen chicken livers, so why not choose something else experimental? That had been our thought process, well that and the fact that we both love steak tartar. Lamb tartar can’t be that different? Yes, yes it can. Lamb tartar is very, very different, very, very bad different. Mixed with what tasted like chickpea but what looked like gristle and bone, the texture was enough to make me feel decidedly nauseous. It was also, as Sophie pointed out, moulded into what looked like miniature hooves. After she had shared this, I couldn’t touch anymore of it. The salad garnish was nice though.
Yalla Yalla is worth a 45-minute wait, but I wouldn’t suggest waiting any longer. Out of our five dishes, three were good, one was fantastic and one was horrific. Price wise it was reasonable, atmosphere wise it was good…and it will now always hold with it the memory of Sophie’s engagement…and of me finally becoming a BRIDESMAID! – And for that it deserves a visit.
Food: *** Atmosphere **** Experience **** Price ££
1 Green’s Ct London, W1F 0HA
020 7287 7663