On the edge of Coal Drops Yard – the Heatherwick Studio-designed shopping and restaurant district opened last autumn – Arabica King’s Cross occupies a ground floor site in the new Aga Khan Centre building, designed by world-renowned architect Fumihiko Maki. Inside, the long, 66-cover space is bright and comfortable, featuring an open plan kitchen and bar with seats for counter dining, a large communal table that runs through the middle of the restaurant. Outside, a terrace has space for a further 40 guests.
In regards to the food, the new restaurant’s menu draws inspiration from founder James Walters’ recent visits to Jordan, Lebanon, Istanbul, Beirut, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Catering to meat-eaters, pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans, the menu also showcases grass-fed halal beef and lamb, free-range Fosse Meadows chickens and sustainable seafood. In order to source the best possible halal steak, James Walters spent several months in talks with Farmison & Co about sourcing British heritage breeds such as Dexter, Belted Galloway, Longhorn, and Highland cattle with marbling and deep flavour characteristics, to be slaughtered by the Halal method, butchered by hand and dry-aged for up to 45 days (losing on weight but improving in flavour and tenderness).
As for the wine list, Bitten and Written’s Zeren Wilson has devised a list championing emerging winemakers from Macedonia, South Africa and Australia, while also showcasing long-time Arabica favourites such as Lebanon’s Domaine de Tourelles vineyard.
On the menu, new dishes include the likes of Istanbul-style mussels (£6.50), shelled and cloaked with tempura batter, served on a skewer with a sauce of walnut and piquant Turkish red pepper. Babaganoush Man’ousheh (£9) comprises a Lebanese flatbread that’s crowned with more-ish smoked aubergine, tahini, herbs, walnuts and pomegranate seeds: a glorious mess of complementary flavours.
Arabica’s borekas (£8), on the other hand, feature a filling of outrageously rich ox cheek that’s slow-braised in red wine alongside Persian lime, presented in golden puff pastry parcels. More beef comes with the beef and bone marrow Arayees (£8.50): fluffy pita bread stuffed with dry-aged short rib and chuck that’s charred over hot coals, finished with some bone marrow to add a note of insalubriousness, served with whipped tahini and preserved lemon. A must-try, as is the hummus KX (£5.50) – a relatively simple dish of practically perfect hummus, embellished with fistfuls of garlic, parsley, chilli, sweet peppers and a heap of roasted chickpeas for textural depth. It’s also served with more of that gorgeous pita bread. Super green hummus is also worth trying, with spinach, sprouting pulses, sweet basil zhug and watercress that adds a welcome peppery undertone to the entire dish.
On the launch of the new restaurant, James Walters, founder of Arabica, said: “A lot has changed for me between the 2014 launch of Arabica Bar & Kitchen in Borough and our King’s Cross launch in September this year. I’ve been on a personal and professional journey and I wanted the KX site to reflect what I’ve learned and how we’ve evolved as a business to this point.
“I started out in Borough over 20 years ago peddling a niche range of fresh meze and specialist ingredients at a time when few people had even heard of sumac or harissa. And I’ve been exploring how this ancient way of eating is becoming more and more enticing to a new wave of people today. So whereas our Borough site focuses on a blend of traditional and new wave middle eastern flavours, KX is much more experimental and playful in its approach. The restaurant aesthetic is contemporary, as are the dishes and it’s a comfortable place to linger and slowly work your way through the menu. Both sites have their own unique identity – and I will continue to take this bespoke approach with future openings, so the Arabica brand is constantly evolving.”
Arabica King’s Cross can be found at 7 Lewis Cubitt Walk, London, N1C 4DT.