There is a great feeling when you have walked for hours, stumbled upon a kiosk, the type your local health clinic would probably advise you to avoid, but Imodium in hand you try the delights of this humble street vendor. Only hours before you brushed your teeth with $2 mineral water and now whatever is behind the kiosk is meant to stay there and thoughts about whether the oil has been fried more than five times does not cross your mind. Yes, when travelling we all want to try street food. At less than a few dollars a head, there is little room for disappointment. There is something to be said about the joy of eating street food; having little care for food etiquette, meeting and observing fellow travellers or locals, and shamelessly wiping your greasy hands on your jeans. More often than not it will be the one meal that pleases all your senses.
Street Food has been the trend of 2011 in London, and I have enjoyed eating at numerous farmers’ markets and food festivals during the year. Every few weeks I hear about a new street food restaurant opening. I recently tried Beirut street food at Yalla Yalla’s second restaurant off Oxford Street.
Aesthetically it does a good job: the yellow, black and off-white colours create an unusual but cosy environment. The space is large and is composed of a brightly lit room with shared wooden tables, colorful paintings and rustic chandeliers. The concept is rather appealing: Beirut street food. However it is pretty much the same hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and halloumi that you would find in most Lebanese restaurants.
Strip away the catchy name, the convenient location and excellent décor, and you are left with poor service, small portions, average food and an unexpected diner bill of about £30 a head. My Beiruti cocktail (a mixture of gin, fresh strawberry, lime juice, sugar cane and pomegranate juice topped up with Prosecco) was probably the highlight.
Yalla Yalla attracts many people and will probably continue to do so, due to its informal setting and a trendy notion of street food. The food itself is a small part of the overall dining experience. As long as you know that before going it can make for a dining option. I doubt I will be going back there soon; as for me street food should be eaten on the street. It is very hard to recreate the same feeling and sensation one experiences on the street within the walls of a central London location.
Yalla Yalla, 12 Winsley Street, London, W1W 8HQ, +442076374748