Address 43 Edgware Rd
Phone (020) 7723 5929
Web site http://www.maroush.com/
Main dish price range £5-10
Rating 5 Stars. The best restaurant in its genre in London.
Recommended dishes Lamb Shawarma, Hummous
Over the last few months, work has caused me to spend a good amount of time in the Middle East, where I've been cheerfully engaged in my favorite pastime: eating Shawarma. I even went so far as to make a systematic study of the Shawarmas of Tel Aviv. You could say I'm something of a Shawarma expert.
And so it is with great pleasure that I award our first five-star restaurant of this blog: Ranoush on Edgware Road. There's no one secret to a Shawarma: it's a combination of the meat, the bread, the veggies, and the sauce that all have to be exactly right, equally fresh and crispy, blended together in just the right proportions. Ranoush, a member of a large Lebanese family of restaurants which spans a few properties in the area, gets it just right.
It also has the certain authentic touches which a five-star pick requires. Its setting, nestled among sidewalk hookah joints operating happily in the - 5 degree January cold, was ideal. The format of counter service with only too few Formica tables, was spot-on. And best of all the, gracious Levantine service was pitch-perfect. When I pointed out that my order for a side of Baba Ganouj was mistaken for a request for a wrap with the same, the line cook smiled and tossed both in the bag, saying it was "on the house." He also tossed in a full bag of pita bread. And smiled at us again.
I should note that the aforementioned Baba Ganouj and also the Hummus I sampled here were excellent, and would have easily held their own against all but the very best in the Holy Land. This place effortlessly outshines all of the Shawarma joints in New York, although admittedly that may be because most of them are from the Turkish tradition (thicker pita, greasier meat), and my tastes run towards the Arab variety.
This is a place I can see myself going to again and again, and happily so. For a while now I had been wondering what a 5-star ethnic restaurant might be like. Now I know.
NOTE: This restaurant is part of the sprawling Maroush empire, which has half a dozen or so restaurants scattered around Edgware Road. I went on a following night to Beirut Express, which seems to serve the same food as Ranoush Juice, although the format is table service. I can see how some might prefer the more attentive service to that which Ranoush's countermen can provide, but to me ordering directly from the guy carving the meat off the skewer is an integral part of the experience. My 5-stars goes to Ranoush Juice, with a Beirut Express a solid 4-star follow-on.