Published 12 May 2021
A successful restaurateur in Damascus, Imad Alarnab’s restaurants were destroyed during the war. Forced to flee the country, he came to London with his family five years ago and is now ready to launch his first restaurant in the capital, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen. We spoke to Imad to find out more.
I have wanted to set up a restaurant ever since mine were destroyed in Damascus during the war. Having arrived in the UK five years ago, I would never have imagined that I’d have my own restaurant in Carnaby London!
I learned a great deal about the London restaurant industry. I made some wonderful friends along the way, people that have helped me enormously in my journey to this point. It helped me make a name for myself, turning Imad’s Syrian Kitchen into a reality.
The food is very traditional, me and my wonderful team will be serving classic Syrian dishes in the restaurant, the kind of meals people would eat at home every day. It’s designed to be a sharing menu, there’s a selection of mezza (meze) and some larger dishes. Signature dishes such as Fattet Hummus and Baba Ghanoj (aubergine dip) will be served alongside our homemade falafel. There will also be some delicious meat dishes, such as Fattet macdous (a minced lamb and baby aubergine dish, with tahini, spice, served with flatbreads) and Jaj Mtafaieh (chicken thighs roasted with vegetables). We’ll also have some Syrian desserts such as baklava and a set Syrian pistachio ice cream.
We have a short wine list that’s been put together by my incredible GM, Heidi. It’s a list that showcases the lesser-known wine regions of eastern Europe and the Levant. Low intervention wines from Greece, Croatia, Georgia and Lebanon will be on there. For example, a number of wines from the distinguished Lebanese family-run winery, Chateau Musar will be on offer, located just outside of Beirut they they became the first producer in Lebanon to achieve organic certification.
It’s much too hard to choose! It’s a sharing menu, so you don’t have to. You can order everything.
The experience has been so different in many ways. The logistics of opening and running a restaurant in Central London are a whole new level. My team have been so brilliant, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
There has been a lot of challenges along the way, my journey here, the pandemic, a second wave putting us back in lockdown days before our opening date. All of these challenges have taught me the importance of staying positive and I’m so pleased that the doors to Imad’s Syrian Kitchen will soon be open.
The UK has so much knowledge about such diverse food cultures, that’s what I love about it, particularly here in London. People know about the obvious foods important in Syrian culture, such as falafel and hummus, but there is so much more to Syrian food than just those few dishes.
I hope to be able to teach guests the importance of food in Syrian culture. In Syria we can’t make any journey without planning the food first. If you decide to go to the cinema, you plan what you’ll eat. If you plan to visit your mother, you know that you’re going to eat. There’s no going out without eating something.
I’ve partnered with many charities since starting my pop-ups here but the refugee charity Choose Love is one I do all I can to support. I’ve raised more than £200,000 for Choose Love and want to continue to support them wherever I can.
Ketf Ghanam – a slow cooked lamb dish that will be on our menu.