Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Egyptian fast food outlet 'Koshari Street' opens its doors in London's theatreland

inside the Koshari Street shop

At lunchtime today I made my way to the new London fast food outlet 'Koshari Street', which specialises in the iconic Egyptian street food  - lentils, rice and pasta topped with spicy tomato sauce and garnished with chickpeas and caramelised onion - from which it takes its name.The The Koshari Street shop was handing out free sample tubs of koshari and bottles of its freshly pressed juices, and was attracting quite a bit of interest from passers-by. Although the shop is aimed primarily at the takeaway trade, there is seating inside for around 10 people. Much thought has gone into the branding and design aspect of the project, with a distinctive purple predominating.

The shop is located at 56 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden.  St Martins Lane  runs from Trafalgar Square, and is in the heart of London's theatreland:  theatregoers are likely to be among those keen to try this novel and exotic fast food.

 a tub of Koshari Street's signature dish

On hand to greet those sampling the shop's fast food were the consultant to the project -  renowned Lebanese-Syrian food writer, blogger and broadcaster Anissa Helou (profiled on this blog here) - and one of Koshari Street's two Egyptian directors, Salah Khalil (the Koshari Street website has a link to bios of the project's team).

Among the books Helou has authored is Mediterranean Street Food (Harper Collins) which includes a recipe for 'Koshari: Rice, Lentils and Vermicelli with Hot Tomato Sauce'. Now Helou has taken this street food to a new level. Koshari Street website says the project was Anissa's brainchild: "She has developed the menu and recipes, adapting the traditional koshari to bring it into the 21st century, using the best ingredients and jazzing up the sauce served with it with specific chillies to offer different degrees of heat. She has also given our koshari a little crunch by adding her own doqqa."

the 3 degrees of Koshari heat: mild, hot and mad

Anissa's Koshari is an intriguing and satisfying mixture of flavours and textures, topped with a layer of  shredded onions fried and caramelised to just the right degree of golden brown. The addition of doqqa is a masterstroke, though Anissa declines to reveal the secrets of her particular doqqa blend of spices, herbs and nuts.

I opted for the highest, "mad", level of hotness which suited me very well. To accompany my tub of koshari I chose beetroot & apple juice, a tasty blend of sweetness and  astringency. I am definitely looking forward to future visits to Koshari Street, and can imagine its Koshari becoming quite an addiction.

The Koshari Street menu includes regular (£4.50) and large (£6.50) tubs of Koshari, white tabbouleh salad, non-bread fattoush salad, and soup of the day. There are two special Meal Combos: regular-size Koshari with either a salad and apple juice (£7.50), or with soup and apple juice (£7.00).  There is a choice of three desserts: Muhallabiyeh (fragrant organic milk pudding), Mishmishiya (apricot leather pudding), and fresh fruit salad. The freshly-pressed juices on offer are apple, apple & beetroot, carrot, blood orange and mango. 
Susannah Tarbush

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