Tucked away on the unassuming Burdett Street, The Orange Room is a taste of Lebanon in the heart of Mile End.
Wandering the streets of Mile End on a rainy Monday lunchtime, you’re not short of a bite to eat. From vegan wraps to Thai curries, Afghan grills to English chippies, there’s a world of delectable cuisine – not least an enticing assortment of fried chicken.
But you could do far worse than a stop off at Burdett Road’s Orange Room, a Lebanese restaurant and Mile End institution. Set up by owner Abbas 17 years ago, the restaurant serves up simple, authentic Lebanese dishes, and has attracted a loyal contingent of local fans.
Fusing the aromatic, spicy flavours of Arabic cuisine with the colour, texture and freshness of the Mediterranean, Lebanese food has become a staple of London’s gastronomical scene, opening British eyes to a fascinating world of flavours. And the Orange Room is one of East London’s best spots for it.
Stepping in from the rainy street, the simple, warm interior is a welcome relief. Wooden tables line the terracotta walls leading to an open kitchen, and the sounds and smells of grilling meat waft enticingly out.
I grab a window seat to peruse the menu, but in truth the herby kofta aromas (and special lunch menu) had made my mind up the moment I walked in the door.
The restaurant looks out on the leafy Mile End park, and on a sunnier day I’d have been tempted by the restaurant’s outside tables, or a wrap to-go and a shady spot under the trees. But instead I make do with a window seat and a wry smile at the umbrella-clutching passersby.
The Orange Room offers a solid lunchtime deal: £6.95 for three vegetable dishes, rice, salad and a drink, or £9.95 for the meat options – chicken, lamb or kofta cooked on a charcoal grill.
There are an array of traditional Lebanese dishes too, from Fatayer B’sabanekh, a baked Lebanese pastry filled with spinach, onions, pine nuts, lemon juice and sumac to Bamieh Bil Lahme, a tomatoey lamb and okra stew, as well as classics like tabouleh, baked aubergine and a broad bean topped hummus and flatbread.
But the lunchtime kofta menu is irresistible, and no sooner has Abbas taken my order than the sizzling charcoal grill fires up. As the smells begin to drift over, I watch a group of loitering kids graffiti the park map. Ah, good old London.
The minced lamb kofta quickly arrives, and it doesn’t disappoint. Deliciously herby, it is made with a Lebanese spice mix of cinnamon, black pepper and sumac, along with fresh parsley and onion, giving the meat a fresh and fragrant flavour.
It is served with a portion of rice, warm flatbread and a simple tomato, cucumber and parsley salad, bringing a welcome freshness to the grilled meat.
A nice touch was the addition of squeezy bottles of garlic and chilli sauce. As a sauce fiend who is partial to lathering condiments, it’s often a bone of contention to find them delivered on the palm of a hand in a miniature dish, or, heaven forbid, some other novelty vessel.
But I can squeeze to my heart’s content, and the sauces are the perfect compliment to the meal, a burn of spice bringing out the herby complexity in the kofta’s flavours.
The only thing missing from my lunchtime experience – though only as I’d stuffed myself with kofta – was the delightful sounding Muhallabia: a ground rice pudding topped with pistachio nuts, rosewater and orange blossom.
The Orange Room came with high recommendations, and it fulfilled them with flying colours. The food is simple, flavoursome, filling and affordable, and the staff are friendly and passionate.
Along with eat-in and takeaway, the restaurant offers catering for events, and the wide selection of meze platters would go down a storm at a party. But for the full experience, the restaurant is a must. I’ll be back soon.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like our review of Ravaa curry house
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