Kellie Erm visits Beso for a West London meal inspired by the vibrant flavours of Moorish cuisine
Khalid Dahbi’s site on Shaftesbury Avenue is a contemporary take on the Mediterranean kitchen, offering northern African dishes instead of the usual Spanish tapas seen in middetearanean cuisine.
The site used to be a Beatles hotspot, and when you walk down Beso’s stairs you can see an image of the band sat in the basement.
The entrance has a large communal table, the perfect place for a big group or for those dining alone.
We start off the evening with a selection of Nocellara and Beldi olives from Marrakech that have been marinated in harissa which were large and meaty with a good kick to them.
We proceeded with grilled and caramelised beef and lamb merguez sausage with harissa mayonnaise and crispy Cornish squid that were impressively crispy and light, it almost felt like popcorn.
I find it difficult not to order the Confit Duck whenever I spot it on the menu, this time with Ras el hanout, buttered bulgur wheat and caramelised prunes.
It’s usually very difficult to make something that is cooked in its own fat for hours on end to become dry, sadly this was the case.
The duck leg had been wrapped in what seemed like a fried pancake; I suppose to give the usually crispy skin the texture.
My guest had the grilled Welsh lamb cutlets that were tender albeit a little overcooked, but the smoked aubergine Begendi was really a new adventure for the both of us.
With its smokey and surprisingly cheesy flavour, it would be the perfect dip for some warm bread.
For dessert we shared the dulce de leche cheesecake that delivered in all ways that dulce de leche does with anything, although it was oddly sturdy and gelatinous.
The almond praline on top was definitely Moorish (and moreish) though!
The Wordrobe Verdict
Shaftesbury Avenue is definitely a tourist hot spot, and Beso is a great place to grab a drink and a quick nibble before the theatre. They’ve got heaters outside so it’s a cosy terrace to sit in and people watch during the winter.
I’ll admit the name is quite confusing, as one would expect a Spanish tapas restaurant but instead stumble into what felt like a Moroccan mezze restaurant.
Make it happen
Where: 190 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8JL
Bookings: Please phone 020 3972 8888 or click here to make a reservation.
Words by Kellie Erm