Maison Bab (Kebab) – Covent Garden, London
Following the fantastic review of gourmet kebab specialists Le Bab in Soho, which was rated 4/5 ROARS, we were looking forward to trying its newly launched sister site.
Having opened only last month, and located around the corner in Covent Garden, Maison Bab’s kebab rolls are slightly different.
For one, theirs are served in tandoor-like naan breads, as opposed to the flatbreads used by Le Bab, and freshly cooked in a bespoke oven.
As with its sister site, this place also caters for Halal lamb and chicken, except that, given its more spacious surroundings, their open-plan kitchen has a designated workspace for prepping all Halal meals (we also noticed them washing their hands thoroughly in advance), before cooking them separately on their barbecue.
Maison Bab is also in the middle of completing its version of a chef’s table, which has affectionately been called the Kebab Queen – a hidden 10-seater, fine dining room located in the basement, which also houses a separate section with a mini-bar.
This room, however, won’t be complete for a good while yet.
While there was a touch of the cucumber in the Mint Cooler Tonic, the mint was barely discernible.
As for the Red Grapefruit Tonic, then the bitter aftertaste of the fruit came through gingerly. We were also told that there was strawberry and peach therein, which we failed to pick up.
Truth be told, these beverages were pretty poor, and, in all honesty, not too dissimilar to the ones we recall enduring at Le Bab.
A beautifully smooth hummus, just as any ought to be, and topped with a good dollop of a strong peanut and tomato concoction that added some heat, all served with thin strips of naan bread.
We really enjoyed the way in which the crispy chickpeas coupled with the sprinkling of diced red onions worked in “brilliantly breaking up the gloopy, though not unpleasant, nature of the nicely seasoned aubergine ragu”, as one Lion put it.
A really pleasurable and flavourful dish this Jay’s Caponata, and served again with then, warm naan quarters.
STARTERS & SNACKS
A fantastic babaganoush this Alyabania, which, while being a pleasure to eat, was superbly defined by the balance achieved between the spices, the miso, and the touch of smokiness courtesy of the aubergine.
A simple visual treat with clear vibrant colours and flavours, this Iskender Romesco Broccoli came together with ease.
Not only did the sweet, lightly spiced sauce, with its smooth and slightly textured consistency, compliment the gentle smokiness from the crunchy, charred tenderstem broccoli, but the speckles of sea salt was crucial in bringing the entire dish together.
And when freshly baked bread is done as well as this, you really can’t go wrong.
But, of course, it’s about the iskender topping, which, with its simple tomatoey-cum-herbiness, was a pleasure to eat.
What we had here was a sandwich filled with a cornocopia of Indian spices and ingredients, all coming together in unison.
The star of the show was, undoubtedly, the potato cake, whose soft texture was the perfect foil against the crispy buns, and whose gentle masala flavour married well against the intensity of the mango chutni (this was an outstandingly good one too).
Add to that the unmistakable strength of the heat courtesy of the vibrantly orange chilli sauce, offset by the gentle sweetness of the coconut yoghurt, and the familiar freshness of the coriander, and this came together into arguably one of the best sandwiches we’ve had, and certainly the one that sets the bar the highest this year!
There was no denying the quality of these wonderfully seasoned cubes of succulent chicken, exceptionally cooked to lock in all that moisture; the harissa mayo, which could have added a touch more heat and intensity; and the broccoli, which, while offering an additional textural bite, was considered out of place by one Lion.
However, there is the more important comparison that inevitably needs to be made between Maison Bab’s kebab rolls and Le Bab’s. We’ll be delaying this, however, for the Summary below.
The celeriac in this shish had a peculiar texture to it, with a soft, slightly charred exterior and a rather stringy interior.
Having said that though, it did succeed as a competent vegan substitute to its meaty rivals.
The biggest shortcoming with this, however, was the lack of oomph, that the rather insipid white sauce failed to achieve. What’s more, the strength of the pickled onions just weren’t enough in adding that something extra this roll was desperately missing.
No complaints with the execution of the Lamb Adana though. This beautifully minced Herdwick kebab was prepped to perfection and cooked even better, with a solidly charred, crispy exterior.
Couple that with the watery sauce, the tangy shallots, and coriander, and this was the most flavourful of the trio of kebab rolls had on the evening.
A good portion of double-cooked, handcut fries presented with a bowl of warm cheese fondue and the aforementioned iskender sauce.
It’s a novel concept that we enjoyed far more when had together rather than separately.
Rustically cooked double-cooked fries that were presented with an iskender sauce that we enjoyed up to a certain point before losing interest.
We’d certainly pay that extra quid and have this alongside the superior cheese fondue above.
- YES/ YES
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
In this case, how did the gourmet kebab rolls of Maison Bab stack up against those of its older sister site, Le Bab.
The biggest difference between the two was obvious enough: the former used a naan bread and the latter a flat bread. Otherwise, the same type of lamb, i.e. Herdwick, was being used for both their respective Adanas, and the chicken appeared to be of the same high standard.
There was also the issue of two Lions out of the three reviewing this restaurant having been to both, and the remaining one only having visited Maison Bab, making said comparison somewhat lopsided.
With that said, however, the two who had experienced the best of both worlds agreed that Le Bab's were superior, with the flat bread being a strong factor in said conclusion.
(ADDENDUM: Since the publication of this review, Maison Bab have informed us that they've "amended the bread recipe slightly, and the kebabs now come on a thinner bread base". Happy days!)
Given its more spacious surroundings, Maison Bab's open-plan kitchen actually has a designated workspace for prepping all Halal meals, before cooking them separately on their barbecue grill, with the chefs washing their hands thoroughly before starting.
For a more intimate experience, try and grab, or better still prebook, a chair(s) at the kitchen's counter.
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