Yamal Alsham is new to Knightsbridge but it’s joining its established sister of the same name in Chelsea Harbour. It’s a neighbourhood with its fair share of Middle Eastern eateries but they are appealing not only to the host community but to the ex-pats who long for a taste of home.
That’s the draw of the Lebanese- and Syrian-inspired menu. It offers something for every diner with fresh salads, warm bread straight from the oven, delicately char-grilled meats and filled pastries. Yes, there are several dishes that are well-laced with vibrant spice, but still more that are just well-seasoned and aromatic.
It’s approaching Valentine’s Day and if you have to look up the actual date you will likely already be in trouble! Yamal Alsham would perhaps be an ideal choice. For those with long-established partners you will appreciate the practicalities of this stylish venue. Its location has extensive transport links – by Underground via both Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner, and by all those iconic double-deck buses!
But there are those other couples for whom this might be the first Valentine’s outing. Yamal Alsham is a comfortable venue for those who are still unsure about the tastes of their romantic-evening companion. There is nothing too outlandish here, but dishes are well presented and even vegetarians are well provided for. There is a good selection of fish dishes but a meat eater will want to sample the grilled skewers.
This restaurant, only opened recently, is light and bright with touches of metallic opulence. The door handles and decorative medallions welcome the diner with a hint of exotic glitz. There are more lustrous touches of bronze on ornamental coving and friezes. The prices are, however, more reasonable than the décor might suggest.
There are plenty of standard and expected dishes on the extensive menu but they are done well and why would you be visiting a Lebanese and Syrian inspired restaurant if you didn’t want to eat Lebanese and Syrian inspired food? Hoummos is the celebrated and ubiquitous
pureé of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Use some of that aforementioned bread to scoop.
Falafels are deep-fried bean and herb croquettes served with lemon and tahini dip, and are golden and crisp. We find them all over London but they are often soggy and unappetising. Yamal Alsham offers a version that is a cut above most.
We British love pies and they are here. OK, admittedly in miniature and perfectly-formed guise, but they have fillings that are somewhat more interesting than steak and kidney. Fatayers are vegetarian baked pastry triangles filled with baby spinach, spring onions and sumac, which is a unique spice blend of the region. Cheese sambousek will also please the non-meat eater – deep-fried pastry parcels filled with cheese and herbs.
Kafta Orfaleas are spicy minced lamb skewers made with parsley, onion and served with a grilled tomato. I think this should be a signature dish. It is indeed spicy, but all the ingredients play a part in making this meat kebab a memorable item. The lamb remains moist with just the amount of grilled flavour to suggest its mode of cooking, but without so much that one would have the impression that charcoal could be the indispensable additive.
Yamal Alsham isn’t fusion, it’s not cutting edge, but both of those concepts are rather over-rated. It’s just ‘right’. It delivers that for which one would hope from this regional cuisine. Its prices won’t shock and its service is friendly. Valentine’s Day dinner could well be sorted!
London SW1X 7JN
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018