Aladin Barakat, a restauranteur from Alexandria, has opened Aladino’s on Kensington Church Street bringing Egyptian inspired food to London. This is a smaller endeavour than his 500 cover space overlooking the Mediterranean, here he has two rooms: the ground floor, and downstairs where as well as further tables you find a bar with a good selection of gins and malt whiskies among other drinks.
We sat at a window by the table, able to people watch the passers-by, but found ourselves distracted by the menu. It’s billed as a festive a la carte menu, and offers a choice of six first courses, and seven main. Prices for first courses range between £6 and £12, and there is one vegetarian choice. Main courses run from £12 to £25, again with the one vegetarian option. Side dishes of two choices of rice, and three of vegetables are all at £5. The wine list is extensive, with a strong emphasis on France, but admittedly a little pricy; the house red was about £30.
Beetroot cured smoked salmon was lightly smoked – in-house, we were informed – and well complemented by the accompanying spiced yoghurt, the spice adding an edge to light smoke of the salmon. Large king prawns were fried in a feather light crispy coating; we particularly liked the accompanying Bois Boudran sauce, which tastes delicious and a lot more interesting than its constituent ingredients indicate it should (it’s a spiced and herbed mix of tomato ketchup and Worcester sauce).
My slow roasted tender shank of lamb was falling apart in all the best ways, richly flavoured with a dark, earthy gravy. The Egyptian spicing made this a much more interesting dish, but I have to admit that I struggled to identify the individual spices. H had oven baked okra with lamb; again showing a sure hand with the spice pot, and the two main ingredients blending well. Her saffron rice was light and fluffy; I had changed the mashed potato as specified on the menu for baked rice, which was an interestingly savoury rice pudding. We didn’t need an extra vegetable – the rich, wholesome flavours and generous portions were just what was required on a cold November evening.
This menu is winter focussed: dishes are hearty and portions generous, so as much as we were tempted, we felt we could only really justify choosing one pudding to share between us. From the choice of six, including a cheese board (prices range from £7 to £12), we selected the Om Ali: filo pastry baked in cream with vanilla and topped with almond flakes. It’s a traditional Egyptian dish, and we understood why it had lasted so long (the slightly macabre tale behind its origins is rooted in the thirteenth century). It’s definitely something that we’re going to have to revisit at home; smooth, rich, sweet and somewhere on that spectrum between irresistible and guilt-inducing.
Service was attentive, and we did like the white gloves on the waiters as an extra little touch of formality, but there are two real reasons to visit Aladino’s. The first is the food – a winter menu of rich, hearty and well spiced food. The dishes is not so unknown that you’re left floundering about trying to find something that you think you might like, but it does reflect its Alexandrian origins. As we learnt from Aladin himself, Alexandria is a rich melting pot, with communities from around the Mediterranean, including Greece, France and Italy, and this is reflected in the local cuisine. The second is Aladin himself; a generous and convivial host, who obviously enjoys welcoming diners to his little outpost of Egypt in Kensington.
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38C Kensington Church Street
0207 937 2244
We were the guests of the restaurant. All opinions our own.
Images courtesy of Aladino’s