Jetlagged on having arrived from NYC, we were looking for a late night restaurant (past midnight on a Friday night) in the Kensington area. We tried Kensington Wine room which was listed on the Urbanspoon list of late night dining options. When we called Kensington Wine Rooms, however, they were no longer serving dinner. The host at Kensington Wine Rooms was very helpful with the suggestion of Ranoush Juice.
Ranoush Juice is a Lebanese restaurant, part of the Maroush chain of restaurants (started by Lebanese born entrepreneur Marouf Abouzaki and wife Houda), serving excellent Lebanese food well into the wee hours of the morning (until 3 AM on most days and until 4 AM in the month of Ramadan). The menu is very long, about 4 – 5 pages and has vegetarian options marked appropriately. The service was very attentive and not rushed (had the service been just a bit less relaxed, our wait time to get seated on that Fri night might have been less than 45 minutes, or so we thought!). The guests at Ranoush Juice included families, couples like us, and people who probably just wrapped up a late night shift or were in the midst of one). At the front of Ranoush Juice (on High Street Kensington), the restaurant has a take-away / waiting area and an open kitchen. Towards the back of the restaurant there are tables in booth like settings that can seat 2 people very comfortably and 4 people in a tight squeeze.
The Chateau Ksara (chardonnay) from Bekaa valley (in Lebanon) was highly recommended on the menu and so we tried it. It was a light to medium bodied, slightly sweet wine with some mild acidity. It was great with the eggplant appetizer and the grilled halloumi cheese.
We got the mashed eggplant (moutabal baba ghanouj). It had a very nice smoky smell and yet was not overcooked. It was served cool. The pita bread was very thin, flat and dry. It was crisp in spots and soft in other spots.
The halloumi cheese was grilled (or was it fried?) very well. It was soft and warm when it arrived and tasted deliciously salty as it usually is.
We ordered the labneh and felt that our server was very thoughtful to have asked us if we want it with or without garlic (some Indians prefer food without garlic). The labneh (yogurt) was thick and delicious with olive oil swirled in and seasoned just right with salt and pepper. The few slices of cucumber were a nice addition too.
The minced lamb skewers in yogurt were excellent with the pine nuts, soft cooked chickpeas and pita bread. The lamb was well spiced (with cloves, cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg) , and cooked tender. This dish reminded me of the minced lamb dish that I had at Tanoreen in NYC and I had a feeling that chef Rawia Bishara’s version was superior in taste and texture. But hey, how often does one get excellent minced lamb at 1 AM without paying a fortune?
We were given a fair amount mini desserts on the house – most of them tasted like variations on the baklava (a dessert with pistachios, and crushed vermicelli / kadaify roasted brown and smothered in butter). I was keen to try the osmallieh, but since we got such a variety of desserts on the house, I osmallieh trial for my next visit. The ossmalieh that I tried at Almayass in NYC has left me searching for a better one. If we were not already full with the food and the desserts, we were also served a platter of fresh fruits and a traditional Lebanese syrup that tasted like rose-water (and like Rooh Afza from India)
Ranoush Juice is an excellent option for a delicious late night meal (after a party at a club or after a late night movie) if you are in the High Street Kensington area, and not just because it’s the only option. I am tempted to try some of the other restaurants in the Maroush chain.
My only other experience eating Lebanese food in London was at Noura (used to be near Piccadilly Circus) many years ago and I remember that being an overall good experience as well. Many more posts on Lebanese food and others will follow on Not Just Vegetarian now that I am in London.
Related links on Not Just Vegetarian:
Note: The post “Late night Lebanese Dinner at Ranoush Juice in High Street Kensington first appeared on Not Just Vegetarian.