Home Blog Beirut in London, Edgware Road

Beirut in London, Edgware Road


Stretching from Marylebone to Bayswater, Edgware Road offers sights, sounds and smells that are a little different to many of Central London’s streets. Dating back to Roman times, the street is one of the oldest in Britain. The road is known for a number of reasons. In 1571, it became the grizzly thoroughfare leading up to the Tyburn Gallows, which previously stood where the Marble Arch now stands.

Thereafter, in the 18th Century, the area was settled in by a new community, French Protestant refugees called Huguenots. Other groups would follow, most notably Arabs, who first came to the street in the 19th Century as migrants from the Ottoman Empire. Later, other waves came in the 1950s and 1970s when people from various Arab nations including Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, as well as other Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, came to London and made their homes in the area. Today, some of the business owners also hail from Gulf states such as Kuwait.

Edgware Road is sometimes known as “Little Arabia” or “Little Beirut”

It is this community that gave the street its popular reputation as a “Little Arabia” or “Little Beirut.” Today, the road is dominated by Arab and Middle Eastern restaurants, cafes and stores, often with a Lebanese flavour.

Mostafa Ahmed, Chef, Maroush Express
As a part of Maroush Group, Maroush Express aims to serve Maroush’s quality and tastes with the simplicity and speed of today’s popular fast-food culture. The Maroush Express concept that the group adopted as a Lebanese food chain was one of the most striking examples of the food served in chain establishments.

Speaking to the Emirati newspaper the National, the Director of the NGO the Caabu Council for Arab-British Understanding Chris Doyle dubbed the street “the epicentre of Arab and Middle East cuisine in London.”

The street is “the epicentre of Arab and Middle East cuisine in London.”

The street certainly is both well-known and popular for its Arab heritage, drawing tourists and residents alike. Rows of people often sit outside the street’s eateries and coffee shops, enjoying flavoured shisha or waterpipe smoke; but since the street is a key centre of Middle Eastern dining, kebabs are common too. Similar to Harringay High Street on the Green Lanes, which is known as London’s Little Turkey, the large number of kebab restaurants on Edgware Road also make it worthy of a reputation as another important focal point of the British Kebab Industry.

Shadi Mohamad, Al Arez Express
As a family run business Al Arez is aiming to represent Lebanon fully; the culture, the family values, the traditions, and most of all, the great taste of Lebanese cooking. The family opened their first ever restaurant in 2006 on Edgware Road and today have five branches. Three branches on Edgware Road, one on Brompton Road, (right opposite Harrods), and one in South Kensington. The family also run a takeaway on Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge called Tyros Burgers, named after the Lebanese city of Tyr.  Shisha is also a significant part of Al Arez’s offer as well as fresh traditional foods.

Britain’s Shawarma Street

Perhaps the most popular of Edgware Road’s kebabs is the fast-food favourite, shawarma. Shawarma, similar to its Turkish equivalent doner, consists of a large piece of meat, usually lamb or chicken, roasted on a rotating vertical spit. The meat can be marinated with a variety of spices including cinnamon, cumin, cloves, black pepper and salt. Sometimes the meat is left overnight to seal the flavour in before the spit is assembled, once ready, it cooks and browns as the spit rotates. When served, the chef then slices pieces off of the spit before serving them in wraps, often with pickles, garlic sauce and salad.

Café Helen, Chef Ahmed Emir, Chef Hasan Farag
Café Helen is one of the oldest food establishments on Edgware Road, open since 1991.  
Cafe Helen, named after its owner, a successful female entrepreneur, is one of the oldest businesses in the region. The enormous sizes of their shawarma kebabs prove why many customers, including famous names, like TV presenter Vernon Kay and Boxer Anthony Joshua are regulars.

Some of the street’s most loved restaurants and cafes are Al-Dar, Al-Arez and Maroush. Some of these restaurants have even founded small chains on the street with different shops bearing the same or a similar name, but with a different function from the main restaurant, such as running an express service, patisserie or dessert parlour offering mint tea, baklava, cakes and sweets.

Sadly, the street’s awe-inspiring cultural vibrancy is not celebrated by everyone. Over two years ago, Edgware Road, its residents and businesses were the subject of a harsh social media attack by the far-right provocateur Katy Hopkins, who tweeted a video of the street and its many Arabic language shop signs, sarcastically inviting people to “guess the country”.

Ebrahim B, Chef, Al-Balad
Al-Balad is one of the significant Shisha and Lebanese cuisine places on Edgware Road. This Lebanese restaurant, which is located on the part of the street close to the city centre, is one of the popular shisha places especially for young people with its outdoor seating. It is also possible to find many authentic dishes such as kebabs, hummus and shawarma fresh in the restaurant.

Another twitter user, the journalist Aleesha Khaliq fired back, mocking Katy for having inadvertently promoted the street. “Katie Hopkins actually played herself” Aleesha tweeted, “She posted a vid of Edgware Road saying “guess the country” and now dozens of people are planning on going there and eating at the restaurants. This is what makes me proud to be British. She gave them free advertising x”. After seeing Aleesha’s response to Katy’s remarks, an Australian tourist added, “I really want to go there too. I’ve saved the name of the street lol.”

We quite agree with Aleesha’s assessment. Edgware Road offers Londoners and visitors a unique taste of the Arab World and the British Kebab Industry with a variety of food, cultures, flavours and experiences. That is why BritShish says, “If you’re in London make sure you check the cultural and culinary hub that is Edgware Road out … if you haven’t already that is!”

Micky’s, Chef Özgür
While kebabs are usually associated with Cypriot and Turkish-origin entrepreneurs in the UK, kebab restaurants on Edgware Road tell a different story. While the overwhelming majority of food businesses are run by Arabs, there is only one Turkish kebab vendor on the street. Özgür has been operating on the street for more than 20 years, selling traditional fish and chips as well as some kebabs.
Palm Palace – Chef Nebil Abu Fahad, Manager Ahmed Siza, Eid Abdullah
Palm Palace is one of the most well-known businesses on the street, it is as popular for its shisha as its food. The Chef Nebil Abu Fahad, Manager Ahmed Siza and supervisor Eid Abdullah are familiar to regular customers as one of the first hookah businesses in the area. Offering delicious varieties of Middle East and Meditereanean cuisine in a space decorated with authentic lights, the business was serving until late at night before the pandemic period.

Farid Charaf, Chef, Ranoush
A fast-food-style eatery with seating for 20, Ranoush Edgware Road remains a cornerstone of the Maroush name, serving favourites like shawarma, fresh fruit cocktail juice, lemonade and traditional Lebanese sweets and good quality late night kebabs.


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