Beirut Express: Best Middle Eastern food in London (January 2017)

For those not familiar with the lower end of the Edgware Road, which heads north from Marble Arch, it is home to the largest Arab population in London. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it is crammed full of restaurants purveying food from across the Middle East. Having been a resident in the area for close on twenty years, I have sampled food from many of the establishments here and have also, separately, been lucky enough to have travelled across quite a lot of the Middle Eastern region for work. In my humble – and obviously subjective – opinion, the Beirut Express beats almost all the competition. It is certainly the best on the Edgware Road. And also gives many places in the Gulf-proper a good run for their money. The restaurant itself is by no means the smartest or priciest, but these are obviously not bad things; one comes for the authenticity of the food in particular. Open from breakfast until the small hours, there is never a bad time to visit the Beirut Express. It is almost always buzzing. Sometimes one may have to stand and wait for a table, but rarely for long. Take-away options are also available. Whether it is a lunch of cold mezza, a more formal grill or a late-night falafel wrap with chilli sauce, there are no bad dishes here. For a novice, mezza perhaps shows Beirut Express at its best: go for the moutabal (a beautifully creamy aubergine purée) and the foul moudamas (boiled broad beans served with lemon and garlic in particular). All dishes come with a seemingly never-ending supply of flatbread and, pickled vegetables are provided on-the-house too. The food is best enjoyed with a freshly squeezed juice, from which there is a wide range to choose (carrot being my favourite). All the dishes are sized generously and while there is the temptation to over-order, service is always quick, and so the menu can be easily revisited. Starter-size dishes cost around £5 and mains £15. It is therefore easy to eat cheaply here. One thing to note: no cards accepted, so bring cash. It will be well-spent.