The hunt for authentic Palestinian cuisine at London's Maramia
The authenticity of Palestinian flavours in food tends to melt in restaurants as it is coupled with food from its Levantine neighbours.
Maramia, which is Arabic for sage, a herb that Palestinians are famous for, brands itself as “the first of its kind in the UK offering real home made Palestinian cuisine in the heart of London.”
Palestinian food is very particular and our flavours are usually localised in ways in which only Palestinians can usually recognise, so who better to test authenticity of the food than an authentic Palestinian (and her honourary Palestinian best friend).
We walked into the restaurant and were greeted by a large painting of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. The chef, who proudly proclaimed to be from Nablus, promptly came to greet us.
The café was full of photos from Palestine throughout history, and he kindly walked us through them, explaining the context behind each photo, giving us a warm and welcoming service.
We sat outside, where we had our falafel and Gaza salad for starters, while discussing the dismantling of patriarchy and catching up on gossip, of course.
|Falafel and Gaza salad [TNA]
I wanted to test whether it truly is a homemade recipe. Too often, falafel in restaurant tend to be bland and commercialised with a distinctive cylinder-like shape.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the shape of the falafel was unique to the restaurant and browned with spices.
I was overcome with how traditional the flavour was. It was moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside, which is a sign of it being freshly made. The Gaza salad did not disappoint either.
Our mains came soon after the starters. Being a vegetarian, I ordered a grilled halloumi and zaatar (thyme) sandwich, while the bestie ordered the lamb kastaleta.
The sandwich was cut into fingers and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw it came with a side of labneh (yoghurt) with zaatar sprinkled on top, something almost every single Palestinian has done as a kid. Major points!
The lamb kastaleta was also served with salad, along with a garlic sauce and was marinated in their special Maramia sauce which consisted of parsley, mint, coriander, sumac, saffron, thyme, garlic chilli and yoghurt. The flavours were great, but the lamb itself was too dry.
|Zaatar and halloumi sandwich
By the time it was time for dessert, we were both full, so we reluctantly decided to share a dish of knafeh. Before ordering the knafeh, I asked the chef if he uses Nabulsi cheese instead of the mainstream halloumi that is used in the UK, which butchers the original recipe.
Although, the menu said that you need to order the knafeh a day before, because of the amount of time it takes to make, the chef still made it for us.
I first dug into the cheesy layer, and indeed, the cheese was Nabulsi, a rare sighting in London restaurants. The texture of the knafeh, however, was slightly crumbly and not as thick as I expected. It fell flat on the plate.
Overall, minus some issues we had with texture, from the service, to the staff, to the flavours and even discussions, everything about Maramia was as Palestinian as one can get in London.
Alcohol served: Yes
Would you take your date there? Yes.
Review by Diana Alghoul, staff journalist at The New Arab.
Follow her on Twitter: @SuperKnafeh