We decided to try out the new Berber and Q in Haggerston, which is near Dalston. They specialise in grilled and barbecued meat combined with a meze menu. Mostly they are a modern North African and Middle Eastern grill house. The restaurant is located inside a railway arch in Acton Mews which is now home to various bars and eateries. They serve their meats accompanied by beats (of the music variety) with a bar come club atmosphere. It was very Williamsburg (Brooklyn) meets Haggerston (East London). With a heady list of exotic cocktails, it’s the place to be on a sultry summer’s night. If you’re searching for Middle Eastern restaurants in London, meat restaurants in London, places to eat in Dalston or a meze grill then do give Berber and Q a try.
Merguez Sausages, Chicken and Pitta
Berber and Q Menu
The owners are Chefs Josh Katz and Mattia Bianchi who have previously worked at Glavin Bistrot de Luxe and Ottolenghi amongst other places. Inspirations come from Josh’s food experiences in London, New York, Marrakesh, Istanbul and Tel Aviv, which is reflected in their food offering. The menu is concise which I liked because you don’t get any fillers. The menu is designed for sharing, so you’ll need to take some friends with you. Quite a few dishes can be enjoyed by eating with your hands but don’t worry because you get a hand wipe with your food. The server asks if you’ve been to the restaurant before and if you haven’t they give you some guidance on how many dishes to order which was about two meze items per person and a couple of meat dishes.
Beets, Whipped Feta, Saffron and Candied Orange
There are six meat dishes which are served with cumin salt, house sauces and pita. All the meat is free-range and naturally reared. It’s dry-brined (salted), marinated and either smoked or finished on the open grill. You can choose from hand-pulled lamb, merguez sausage (spicy sausage which is coloured with red peppers and made in-house), smoked pork belly with pomegranate molasses BBQ sauce, joojeh chicken thighs, harissa hot wings or smoked short rib with date syrup glaze. Our friend sampled the hand-pulled lamb, which he said was very tender and tasted delicious. We’ll have to take his word for that, and he ate it pretty quickly, which is a good sign.
Grilled Corn, Harissa Aioli and Lime
The Meze selection featured eight dishes, one of which contained meat and the others were vegetarian. We couldn’t decide what to try so we just ordered everything plus the mixed pickles and hummus with marinated chickpeas and pine nuts. The hummus arrived first with one pitta bread in a brown paper bag. The pitta bread was lovely and fluffy, and one of the nicest I have ever tasted. I only wish they had brought one per person because I didn’t want to share it. The hummus was amazing and quite outstanding with a creamy consistency.
Hummus with Marinated Chickpeas and Pine Nuts
When our meze dishes came, it was a bit overwhelming because they soon filled up the table and we didn’t know quite where to start. On hindsight, it might have been better to order less so you could appreciate the flavours of each dish. It was also quite dark inside because it’s more of a club come bar atmosphere, so I found it quite challenging to admire the visual aspects of the food. If the lights were up a tad more and perhaps lowered later on in the evening, it would have been appreciated. But that might be because I’m getting older and prefer to see what I’m eating. I also found it quite hard to concentrate because the music was just a bit too loud. Yeah, I do sound old! If the lights were up a notch and the music down a notch I would have been pleased. But then again, if you are under thirty, it would have been perfect.
I digress so let’s get back to the meze side of things. The blackened aubergine sabich came with a boiled egg on top, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and flat parsley plus a creamy dressing. I enjoyed the burnt taste because I prefer my food overcooked. The flesh was quite mushy, which I don’t usually like, but in this case, it was a beautiful combination. Beetroot came with whipped feta, saffron and candied orange. I’m not a fan of beets but my friends all liked it, I did taste the whipped feta which was very good. The red slaw was red cabbage with red onions and possibly red carrots, but I couldn’t quite tell, it wasn’t too strong tasting with the onion and almost quite cooling when you needed to refresh your mouth after eating hot pickles. We all loved the cauliflower shawarma with tahini. That was probably my favourite dish because I’ve never been able to get a cauliflower tasting that fabulous and believe me, I’ve tried! The grilled corn with harissa aioli and lime went quickly, so I only had a brief nibble. The green beans were good, especially with the grilled flakes of garlic which were crispy (I think it was garlic). I didn’t try the smoked beans because it contained lamb neck but heard they were tasty.
Cauliflower Shawarma with Tahini
The main meal comes on a metal tray with your pickles. We tried the mixed pickles, and some were hot so don’t rush in otherwise you might regret it! Also listed under pickles were turmeric cauliflower, curry and caraway cabbage and B&B dill cucumber. There are a couple of dips which includes the hummus and crème Fraiche with harissa oil and crushed tomatoes. Everything arrives quite quickly after ordering so if you do want to slow things down have a drink and take your time. One thing also to point out is there is likely to be a queue of people hovering in the doorway so you may need to leave soon afterwards.
Green Beans, Preserved Lemon and Pangrattato
There are only a couple of desserts on the menu. We tried the chocolate and cardamom mousse. I think the top half was yoghurt and I know the bottom was mousse. I would have preferred more chocolate mousse because this is a dessert I dream about. There is also the lemon and saffron rice pudding.
Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse
The drinks list is imaginative and original. A couple to mention is the Guy Berber which is vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate, lime and raki mist. Lebaneeza is saffron-infused rum with grapefruit demerara syrup and mint. Other ingredients include rose harissa, pistachio syrup and sumac. The soft drinks were amazing, and we tried the pomegranate with red grapefruit soda and the lemon blossom Turkish iced tea. The beer is their brew in collaboration with CRATE brewery, and it’s a golden ale with za’atar, sumac, thyme and orange. They have a few wines and also serve clay tea, Moroccan mint tea and Turkish coffee.
Berber and Q Interiors
Acton Mews is home to a few bars and restaurants, and it is getting quite a reputation for drinking and hang out place. The street is pedestrianised so you’ll find plenty of people on the road smoking, chatting and queuing to get into various venues. Situated in a railway arch, the frontage features corrugated sheeting which has been rusted.
Inside its bare brick walls and ceiling in an arch shape. The floor is concrete, so it’s quite industrial. There is a long bar, one side with stools. The kitchen is open and on full view. The space isn’t massive, and you can’t book a table so go early if you want to be sure of a seat. One side of the space has a long bench seat with cushions which is faced with wooden tables, and there are communal tables in the middle of the room. The seating arrangement is cosy and quite comfortable. Overall, the décor is industrial chic. A great place to check out with a few friends but not a big group as you might not get seated.
Berber and Q Information
Cuisine: Middle Eastern grill house with meze dishes
Price: Meat £9-18, Meze £4.50-9, Desserts £5.50-6 and Cocktails £7.50-8.50
Website: Berber and Q
Address: Arch 338, Acton Mews, London E8 4EA
Open: Check online for current opening times
Décor: Urban, industrial
Reservations: No reservations can be made
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Berber and Q and Homegirl London. Thanks: Homeboy, Robin and Ness for the company and Dominique for the photographs.