Maison Bab in a nutshell: haute kebabs from a trio of chefs who bid adieu to Michel Roux Jr’s Michelin-starred restaurant to cook meat with fire. This second spot from the Le Bab crew is prime Covent Garden real estate, within kiss-blowing distance to neighbours Temper and Hawksmoor.
Decor-wise, it’s non-threateningly edgy. You know the drill, custom pink neon lights, an array of cheeseplants and a bit of lofty industrial piping. Sit down at a proper table should you so desire, or perch on the bar next to the open kitchen to watch the chefs twizzling their shawarma over the hot coals. I enjoyed the basement loos papered floor-to-ceiling with playing cards and the excitingly fragranced hand soap.
Their signature cocktail, gin and chronic (£11) is a sour-style number with a vegetal note coming from cannabis-derived CBD oil, boasting health benefits including everything from pain relief and anxiety reduction to invincibility and sex appeal, all whilst being totally above board and legal.
We couldn’t really decide between the starters so went ahead and ordered pretty much all of them. The unctuously fatty Herdwick mutton curry, slow-cooked on the bone with Iranian prunes (£5.5), was a lip-smacking dish and the charred tenderstem broccoli, smothered in almond and hazelnut Iskender sauce (£5), a glorious ode to this king of the vegetable world.
The words ‘dirty doner’ are usually enough to induce violent feelings of nausea, but I can’t stop thinking about the doner beignet (£5) - crispy-fried lamb balls served with chilli sauce and toum (a Levantine garlic sauce reminiscent of a Provençal aïoli) - which were a meaty revelation. The butterbean hummus (£4.5) provided some quality dipping.
Mains-wise, Maison Bab’s aiming-to-be-famous 15-hour pork shawarma (£9.5) is not something you’d traditionally find knocking around the Middle East. We opted for the chicken shish wrapped in a dimpled, singed flatbread with charred broccoli and harissa mayo (£9.5). I’d call it a gorgeous, coal-licked ensemble but from a purely selfish perspective - and this comes from someone who was once caught shotting malt vinegar in a pantry - I’d have liked the kick of something more abrasively pickled. That something looks a lot like a dutty jalapeño. Fondue fries (£5.5) AKA posh cheesy chips taste as good as you’d hope.
We thought the lamb adana - minced spiced lamb with pickled shallots (£9.5) - was a touch unbalanced and not entirely befitting the pedigree of the ex-Le Gavroche staff. And then there’s a renegade addition of vada pav for the veggies, a deep fried masala potato cake sandwich from Mumbai (£8). Incongruous at first, it’s a move which shows integrity: I like that they’re serving something that’s always meant to be vegetarian, not something concocted from the accompaniments of the meat dishes.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Maison Bab might not be as challenging as Black Axe Mangal, the brash, penis-adorned kebab mecca in Highbury, but the Le Bab crew have got their sights set firmly on the upper echelons of London’s ‘bab world. It’s a crowd-pleasing, pocket-friendly alternative to traipsing all the way up to Green Lanes for your regular Gökyüzü fix.