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Booming business at BabaBoom

It’s loud, fast and buzzy and the menu at this new Upper Street restaurant offers a clever twist on familiar dishes

14 September, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

The short menu at BabaBoom is a marvel. Photo: Michael Franke

HERE’S a dish that sums up London’s food scene: coal-fired cauliflower kebab with sweet potato hummus. Cauliflower has become a staple on new restaurant menus – a fickle fashion that bemuses the brassica farmers of Lincolnshire and Kent.

Cosmopolitan chefs smother it in miso butter, stuff slices into posh burgers or even blitz the florets into cauliflower “rice”.

At BabaBoom, a new restaurant in Upper Street in Islington, their bestselling cauliflower kebab is one of six main dishes on the short menu.

You’ll also discover a chicken shish marinated in saffron and orange; lamb with sour cherry; slow-roast mutton; beef brisket; or a broad bean falafel with whipped feta. These are served with fattoush salad or a pillowy Persian flatbread, with a whole red chilli as stylish garnish. Optional extras include avocado tahini, grilled cheese or date-glazed bacon.

This is the second restaurant from a team who struck gold with a smaller site in Battersea Rise, where they have served over 75,000 kebabs since opening in late 2016.

Upper Street is an obvious choice north of the river – although in this postcode you’re not far from London’s best and most authentic kebab shops in Dalston, Green Lanes and Stoke Newington.

We visited BabaBoom for dinner. The place was heaving: music blared; keen staff whizzed past in designer aprons. This is a long, narrow room in neutral whites. The short menu is a marvel – full of clever twists on more familiar dishes. The sweet potato hummus, for example, shuns the usual chickpeas. Tahini and soft sweet potato is whipped until velvety smooth then served with crisp fried onions, a sprinkling of sour sumac and chunks of purple carrot.

Fried whitebait – a classic pub dish – is dusted in North African spice mix. You squeeze on fresh lime juice and dunk them in harissa yoghurt.

This bold approach is what saves BabaBoom from copycat mediocrity. This place serves food that’s genuinely exciting rather than ho-hum grilled meats with an N1 price tag.

The kebabs, which cost from £9.25 to £12, are high-calibre. The flatbreads are puffy and blistered in all the right places. Meat is carefully sourced; the veggie options well put together.

Portion sizes, however, feel less generous than my favourite Turkish places in Stoke Newington, from which I often leave clutching a doggy bag.

Drinks at BabaBoom include frozen margaritas, homemade cherryade, cold-pressed juices and craft lagers.
There’s just one dessert – but it’s all you need. The sundae is spot on: subtle sour notes of yoghurt ice cream balanced with pistachio, intense salted caramel and fragments of honeycomb.

Like most restaurants in Upper Street, BabaBoom is designed to be fun, fast and buzzy. So not recommended for a quiet or romantic dinner.

In a quirky touch, they also offer Medal Mondays. This was inspired by the founders’ love of running – another trend that has gripped the capital. You show a sports medal to get free side dish. Now there’s an incentive for getting your trainers on after work.

189 Upper Street, N1
07715 525203


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