Abd el Wahab officially opened its doors in London’s Belgravia in March 2018, and is the first restaurant in the now 19-strong and award-winning group to be located outside the Middle East.
Simon Wittenberg went along to sample this eatery’s exquisite cuisine and hospitality.
The 120-cover Abd el Wahab on Pont Street, a few minutes’ walk away from the busy Knightsbridge thoroughfare, is housed within an unassuming Georgian building, and the delightful and luxurious interior has been carefully crafted by Antonie Tabet & Associates. There’s also an outside terrace where visitors can enjoy an Arabic coffee and a sweet pastry.
The sizeable restaurant, which takes its name from a street in Beirut where the first Abd el Wahab appeared, is actually deceiving from the outside, and stretches quite far back when you walk in. We were seated by the large front windows overlooking the road, where you can catch a glimpse of Belgravia’s wealthy residents and their matching collection of supercars.
Overseen by the group’s Executive Chef, Kamil Bouloot, the extensive à la carte menu is made up of some of the most traditional and much loved concoctions from Lebanon. At Abd el Wahab, it seems to be very much a sharing philosophy as our hostess duly pointed out, but of course, the dishes can equally be enjoyed as individual servings if guests have differing preferences.
With so many mouth-watering starters on offer, which include the traditional Lebanese Fattouch and Tabbouleh salads, it’s easy to get carried away and to eat too much at the beginning. We luckily had enough self-control to order just the right amount.
From the “Cold Starters” and “Salads” sections of the menu, we chose a relatively expensive bowl of creamy hummus (a chickpea purée with tahini and lemon juice) costing £6.50, a plate of mixed pickles (£5.50) and a deliciously tangy Raheb salad (£6), which was namely grilled eggplant, onions, pepper and lemon juice.
From the “Hot Starters”, I headed for some grilled halloumi cheese garnished with a sprinkling of mint leaves and cherry tomatoes (£8.50), and with a basket of warm flat bread and pitta to complement our hors d’oeuvres, this was more than sufficient to satisfy our initial hunger.
On to the mains, and the meat and kebabs are seared and cooked fresh to order over the charcoal grill by the specialist grill-chefs. My wife opted for the pieces of grilled and marinated lamb fillet (£19) which were served with triangular pieces of tomato and onion-coated flatbread.
Presented on a rectangular board with a single roasted potato, as well as a grilled tomato and mushroom, I enjoyed a whole sea bass (£23). Despite a bit of effort to get the flesh off the bone, the reward was evident once you had doused it with the flavoursome Provençal sauce.
The hot and cold drink varieties on offer are as comprehensive as those relating to the food, and we followed our host’s recommendation of lemonade with fresh mint (£4), and being a warm day, this was a great suggestion. For those who wish to indulge in something more alcoholic, there is a good choice of Lebanese red, white and rosé wines available, as well as the more familiar names from the wine-growing regions of Europe and North America. We had a drop of the very pleasant and crisp Ksara Blanc de Blanc white (costing £6.50 per glass).
There are plenty of desserts to tempt the taste buds. Everything from Ashta cream with banana and honey, to an halva tart with chocolate sauce and ice cream. A firm favourite of mine, we went for the sweet baklawa selection (£5.50), and a refreshing and generous fruit platter (£5) which was the perfect way to end our meal.
Abd el Wahab really is a gastronomic gem of SW1 which will have no shortage of custom. For those looking for an authentic taste of Lebanon in a relaxed setting combined with great service, then this restaurant is certainly the place to head for.
Abd el Wahab – Where and How?
Abd el Wahab is located at 1 – 3 Pont Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 9EL, United Kingdom. To make a reservation, call 0207 235 1100.