Randa W8
REVIEWS, September 20, 2006
Overall Value
out of 5
Randa, 23 Kensington Church St, London, W8 4LF

Back in 1979, with a civil war raging back home, chef Marouf Abouzaki arrived in London from Lebanon. He soon set up the first Maroush, in Edgware Road and since then his stable of establishments has grown pretty steadily. There are now half a dozen Maroushes proper, and roughly the same again of spin-off brands such as Ranoush and Beirut Express. Like many successful restaurateurs, Mr Abouzaki likes to keep his operations geographically ‘tight’ – mostly within half a mile of Marble Arch.

His latest venture adds a new ‘concept’ to the empire. The Kensington premises formerly known as the Catherine Wheel have certainly banished any recollections of their days as a smoky old boozer. The new look, complete with mezzanine, makes much use of back-lit glass, to create an interior which – by Lebanese standards – is on the understated side of glitzy.

By day, this makes a smart and comfortable destination, and it is the daytime menu (noon-5pm) which is the particular attraction here. For £12, you get tasty olives, a huge and impressively fresh salad and vegetable bowl, bread, two hot and two cold starters, a meaty dish of the day with rice, and some pastries. Even with a glass of wine and an extremely passable espresso, you can still get away around the £20 a head mark (plus a tip). By night, when broadly the same meal would cost twice as much, the attractions of the perfectly palatable but fairly unremarkable cuisine would be rather less apparent.

Ending on a seasonal note, Christmas is now less than three months away. Maroush group establishments are generally open throughout the festive season – including December 25th – so if you’re looking to escape the seasonal banalities without leaving town this place, or one of its siblings, might be well worth considering.

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