Freelance writer and photographer who has contributed to UKTV, Expedia, Hotels.com and USA Today and lives in West London.
Published November 23rd 2012
Delicious Lebanese cuisine in Earl's Court
Maroush Bakery is set on Earl's Court Road in west central London. It's a busy street, rather blighted by heavy traffic, with shops and restaurants running along its length and upmarket homes in the streets behind.
Residents have included a young Lady Diana and Freddy Mercury, a bizarre combination that gives you some idea of the neighbourhood's louche ambience. There's a tube station, Earl's Court, less than 200 metres from the Maroush.
Maroush Bakehouse is part of a privately owned chain of Lebanese restaurants, all in London, and the company has earned a reputation for quality, fresh food since the first branch opened in 1981 on Edgware Road. Founder Marouf Abouzaki, who arrived in London from war-torn Beirut in 1975, is still at the helm of the operation.
This branch of Maroush has clean, contemporary styling but its stand-out feature by far is the glass wall at the back of the restaurant offering a view of the working bakery.
Bread is important in Middle Eastern cuisine, and as well as serving it with meals, the restaurant sells it by the loaf. Lebanese bread obviously features, but Maroush also sells a range of speciality loaves including Polish rye sourdough, pain de campagne and roast pepper and goat cheese focaccia.
I was joined by a companion for lunch and we started by sharing a couple of appetisers. Moutabal Baba Ghanouj, grilled aubergines puréed with tahini and lemon juice, is a Middle Eastern staple. The lemon juice cut the rich smoothness of the aubergine and tahini perfectly, making it just right for eating as a dip with freshly baked khobez (pitta bread). Our other choice was lamb sambousek, little Lebanese pastries stuffed with minced lamb and pine kernels, and those too were delicious and moreish.
We both ordered shawarma for our main course. Shawarma is a kind of sandwich with thin slices of lamb or chicken cut from a rotating skewer and wrapped in khobez with salad and Lebanese pickles, plus garlic or chilli sauce to taste. It's a simple dish, often eaten on the street in Lebanon, but if it's sloppily prepared it can be a disaster, greasy and unappetising. The shawarma at Maroush, I'm delighted to report, was impeccable - five stars.
We rounded the meal off with satisfyingly strong espresso and a selection of baklava, Lebanese sweets made with filo pastry, nuts and honey.
The best Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking is characterised by outstandingly fresh ingredients and simplicity of preparation. Maroush Bakehouse gets it just right.