Located right by bustling Leicester Square lies a tiny bar, barely wide enough for four people to stand side to side, but this is not your usual hole in the wall boozer. This is Koshari Street, an Egyptian street food eatery that has been gathering a fair bit of attention since its opening in 2012.
Koshari is a quick, healthy and filling street food made from a mix of macaroni, lentils, rice, chickpeas and nuts which is then topped with a spicy tomato sauce and caramelised onions. It is often considered Egypt’s national dish and has acquired an almost legendary reputation as the food that fuelled the Egyptian revolution as apparently during the protests the dish was served everywhere.
You can see why after trying some. The ingredients are environmentally friendly, requiring less land to grow than our usual source of protein; meat. The lentils and chickpeas are cheap low-fat sources of protein and, when done well, pretty tasty. It’s quick, the food is cooked beforehand and remains hot, so when you arrive the wait for your meal is as long as it takes to serve.
The Koshari itself has satisfying depth of flavour and a rich and complex texture with the mix of pulses, rice and pasta. The tomato sauce tastes fresh and comes in three heat levels “mild”, “hot” and “mad”, the latter is an impressive blast of heat but just reeled in enough to keep all the flavours perceivable. A medium sized pot of Koshari costs £4.50 and is certainly large enough to leave you full and, I suspect, would be a perfect stomach liner for anyone who has had a night on the town. This is accompanied with fresh fruit juices and salads plus a few cheeky desserts. The sweet tooth star would have to be the Muhallabieh, a creamy coconut and rosewater flavoured pudding topped with pistachios.
The food here is very simple and there is not much on offer but that is sort of the point of Koshari Street. It’s very much a case of less is more, a quick and cheap meal on the go that isn’t going to cause heart failure 20 years down the line. Hopefully we will see more fast food eateries like this pop up and a few less burger joints on the streets of London.