LONDON | Berber & Q Haggerston has been getting a lot of positive press since it opened its oh so London railway arch doors in April this year, even winning over the sometimes scathing Grace Dent of the Evening Standard, who touted it as her favourite opening of the year. Berber & Q is the perfect example of an Ottolenghi alumnus spreading his wings and absolutely soaring. Honey & Co and Sesame have already dazzled the capital, now Josh Katz and fellow Ottolenghi colleague, Mattia Bianchi, have teamed up, with promises of “Grilled & smoked meats cooked over charcoal, mezze from the East, music from the West, beer by the growler, cocktails, pickles & pita”. No wonder there’s been a lot of buzz.
The Berber & Q menu takes inspiration from Katz and Bianchi’s travels around the globe – New York to North Africa, and London to Tel Aviv. Essentially Berber & Q is a modern, Middle Eastern take on American BBQ. Berber is the perfect example of how global cuisines can combine into an amazing experience.
Berber & Q is tucked away in Acton Mews, just steps away from Kingsland Road. Acton Mews has now become a bit of a destination recently with the board game bar Draughts, yoga, shopping, and now Berber & Q. The restaurant space is informal and laid back – bench seating, exposed brick work, and the ubiquitous retro Edison light bulbs. Solid tunes pumping in the background provide the perfect backdrop to a chilled dining experience. Diners are able to peer into the open kitchen and get a glimpse of mounds of fresh veg and the plethora of spices used to season the dishes.
As you could imagine, we were expecting big things when we arrived for brunch and seriously, this experience was amazing. When we finished brunch, we considered going back for dinner the very next day. We arrived at about 1:30pm on a Saturday and were able to get right in. Considering the tales of snaking queues that can form for dinner during the week, we counted ourselves very lucky. Consider this a hot tip.
The menu is focused and concise but it took a serious amount of deliberation to make a selection – everything sounded so appealing. We started with Turkish coffees to help shake off that sluggishness from the week, and also opted for a fresh rosemary lemonade as it sounded too refreshing to pass up.
Open-Faced Chicken Shawarma (£8.50)
Our first dish was the “daily pita” which was an open-faced chicken sharmwa with a side of salad. The pita sold itself when we saw one being brought to another table and it’s hard to say what element of this dish was the stand-out. Quite simple, this was the best damn pita we’ve ever had! The chicken was so tender and tasty with the smoky, charcoal grilled flavour perfectly balanced with the green chilli ketchup, tahini and pomegranate. The salad was crisp and delicious, with the benefits of the Mediterranean diet seeming to leap out from the tray at you.
Tunisian Shakshuka + Turkish Merquez Sausage (£16.50 for 2 + £4.50)
The second meal was the Tunisian shakshuka with the optional home-made Turkish Merguez sausage thrown in for good measure. Again, it came with that delicious pita fresh out of the wood fired oven. What can we say? This was just an outstanding start to the day. The shakshuka was a skillet unlike any we’ve tried before. Bursting with flavour, yet leaving us feeling not too decadent or unhealthy. There was a range of Mediterranean flavours all mixed together. Red peppers & blackened tomato jam added some zing, with egg mixed throughout. We highly recommend getting the optional sausage added to your dish. The dish is great of course, without the sausage, but its inclusion takes things to a whole new level of deliciousness.
Other brunch options included the Full Israeli, Turkish Eggs, and a hummus dish which we look forward to trying on future visits.
We were not drinking but there were several tempting options on the drinks front. Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick brews a beer exclusively for Berber & Q flavoured with za’tar, sumac, thyme, and orange. The bar menu looked equally tempting as the brunch fare. You can see the East meets West influence in the Harissa Bloody Mary for example.
Even if you live on the opposite side of London, this is the kind of establishment that is worth the journey. We left feeling satisfied and planning our next visit for dinner! Smoked pork belly with pomegranate molasses, Harissa hot wings and hand-pulled lamb anyone?
Berber & Q
London E8 4EA
Tue – Fri: 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat – Sun: 11:00am to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 11:00pm