By contributor Claire Zakiewicz – a healthy eating enthusiast and keen marathon runner.
I accepted the invitation to review Koshari Street because I was attracted to the healthy looking vegetarian menu. Being a long distance runner and foodie it is no surprise I have a passion for travelling and relish getting stuck into local cuisines. Occasionally an exceptional culinary delight stays permanently in my memory and the best have been in local people’s homes or at the road side. Such occasions have included spring rolls in Vietnam – from a street vendor in Hoi An to be exact, a raw papaya salad in Thailand, which I ate on a boat heading to Ko Phi Phi, chai in India passed through the train window at a station and sucking sugar cane along a rural lane in Cuba.
The thinking behind Koshari Street is to bring a range of street foods to London. Koshari Street is the first of these outlets but the idea is to open a number of outlets with favourite side-of-the-road dishes from around the world.
Koshari is a popular Egyptian street food made from lentils, rice, vermicelli, macaroni and chickpeas with a spicy tomato sauce topped with crunchy fried onions. It’s not vegan (because pasta contains eggs) but is vegetarian and compared to many fast food meals it is pretty healthy.
At Koshari Street they have adapted the recipe slightly and it is possible to adapt the dish as per your taste. The onions are fried and therefore quite oily but you can order it without. The onions, however, do taste great and add to the range of textures and flavours in the dish. As for the tomato sauce, there are three strengths to choose from each with different types of pepper: naga jolokia – the world’s hottest pepper, cayenne pepper – my first choice because of many health benefits, or very mild eleppo pepper.
They also offer the option of adding a tasty cumin and garlic sauce. The carbohydrate content is high but the lentils and chickpeas provide some protein. For me it would be an ideal meal the day before a long run when ‘carb loading’ is really helpful for stamina. After a long run it is better to avoid carbohydrates and load up on protein. I’m also not convinced about combining so many carbs and pulses in terms of digestibility. All in all though, Koshari makes for a hearty and filling meal, which can really hit the spot sometimes.
Ideally I like to have a better range of vegetables in a meal, but I was happy with the selection of fresh and raw side dishes. It’s also good for me that Koshari comes in two sizes because the small pot meant I could manage more salads and sides.
The hummus pot came with celery, carrot and cucumber – a healthy, flavourful and colourful combination although the salad pieces were pre-cut and therefore unavoidably a little dry. The hummus was quite oily and I didn’t ask what kind of oil it was. So long as it was olive oil or another good oil, it’s still very healthy.
As the Koshari doesn’t contain anything green I picked out a Tabbouleh Salad. It was refreshing and fragrant with a lot of parsley but not made in such as way that would work well on it’s own as it really was heavy on the herbs. On the whole the raw sides complemented the hot and hearty Koshari and altogether it was a very satisfying meal.
I ordered a Beetroot and Apple Juice for a variation of colour and it was very fresh and natural tasting. However, my friend ordered the watermelon drink and I was extremely jealous – it was heavenly. So I ordered one too!
The restaurant was completely empty but it really is more of a hole-in-the-wall type place for take-outs, with only a few spaces to sit. While I was there they did have some take away orders. I hope Koshari Street does well because it really works as a healthy fast food outlet that brings a bit of Egyptian street culture to London. With the unrest in Egypt at the moment it is less likely Londoners will be holidaying there, but at least we can taste the street food over here and imagine how it compares to the real thing.
The Egyptian community in London might also enjoy a taste from back home, however different the atmosphere in the heart of Soho must be from downtown Cairo. The seating isn’t particularly comfy and the decor is a little clinical – although stylish in a modern way. I certainly would have appreciated more of an Egyptian atmosphere, but there is some interesting art on the walls and they plan to feature different Egyptian artists for a few months at a time.
Koshari Street is open Monday to Saturday 11:30am – 11:00pm & closed on Sunday. Koshari bowls are £4.50 and £6:50. A meal for two might set you back about £15.
Food I Fancy dined as a guest.
56 St Martin’s Lane
London, WC2N 4EA
Tel: 020 3667 8763