Funky, fun and fully licensed, Yalla Yalla dishes out Lebanese street food with style and flavour.
Yalla Yalla defies Middle Eastern restaurant stereotypes. Rather than cultural paraphernalia, Yalla Yalla showcases contemporary design with a keen eye for bold graphics and textures. The space - a long room with two glass walls – is decorated with a stark colour scheme. Intense yellow (a clear but solitary nod to the Mediterranean) and whites and blacks are spread on contemporary chairs, tables for two, wall stickers and pretty much everything else. The middle section is slightly more traditional, with an exposed wine cellar resting on bricks but the overall impression is of a pristine, creative décor.
Yalla Yalla means 'hurry up', but don't think that waiters will pressure you to clear the table. Fast service seems to be the motto of the staff (a remarkable difference from the traditional sluggish attitude you may get in Morocco or Egypt), but it's a relaxed place. If, however, you order your food to go, you will be in an out in less than five minutes so you can grab a bite and head back to the office. The crowd is varied: as Market Place behind Oxford Circus expands, more and more people head there to eat while shopping. Yalla Yalla is slightly hidden away at the Market Place periphery, but expect to find customers at all hours, since the restaurant remains open during the afternoon.
The reason why take-away service is so quick is that their pitta wraps (£4-£4.50) are ready-made, and they only need to be bagged. While speed may be an advantage, the wrap is left to dry for hours becoming rigid and papery on the outside. On the plus side, the portion is generous and the fillings flavourful, but you are still better off eating in. The Lebanese street food menu splits between mezze to share (£4-£5.50) and mains (£8.50-£13.75). Most of the mezze are known territory (hummous, delicious baba ghannouj and others), but there are also surprises like arayes (crispy pitta filled with spicy minced lamb), makale samak (deep fried seafood) and a selection of samboussek (traditional savoury pastries). The mains include shawarmas, the always delicious moussaka (baked aubergine) and many other unknown dishes like lozok meshoue (charcoal grilled sea bass).
There are a dozen wines available (£20-£40 per bottle or £4-£6 per glass), remarkably mostly from Lebanon. This country may not be famous for wine but it has one of the oldest wine productions in the world. Other options include a handful of cocktails (£9), Lebanese Alamaza beer (£3.80) and non-alcoholic options (from £2), particularly recommended in case wine doesn’t tempt you. Freshly squeezed pomegranate is a rare sight in London and so is orange blossom lemonade. Their fresh mint tea, made in the Middle Eastern fashion, and their Arabic coffee are also to be tried.
The Last Word
For the uninitiated, Yalla Yalla provides a cultural experience. For Middle Easterns, it provides a treat. To both, it provides really good food.