Arabian Nights: An Alternative Experience
Here at YesBoy we’ve been harbouring a secret for too long; it’s time to get it off our chests and spread the word about our ‘local’.
The day I moved to Maida Vale I was strolling along when I noticed a heavenly aroma in the air: I instantly recognised the dense fragrance of shisha and the culprit was Momtaz Shisha Café on Chippenham Road. Having grown up in the Middle East I was beyond excited, so I went along with high hopes.
Shisha is a staple in the social lives of the Arab community: Westerners go to the pub for a few pints and a chat while Arabs go to a shisha café to relax over a smoke.
On my first visit, as soon as I walked through the door I was no longer in London; I was in the Middle East. Everything about the café was so authentically Arabian: The deep clay red colour scheme and the intricately patterned majlis cushions lining the walls of the smoking terrace.
The place had a slightly worn feel to it too; it wasn’t a perfectly glossy interior, it felt more homely than commercial. Plasma TVs played Arab music channels and men lay stretched out on the cushions puffing on their shisha. It really did feel like a typical shisha café in any Middle Eastern country.
We took a place on the cushions in the smoking terrace initiating some looks of curiosity from the regulars – but they were pleasantly surprised to see Westerners in there and engaged us in brief friendly conversation.
The staff were more than welcoming and brought over one double apple and one mint shisha – the two most popular flavours. As a seasoned shisha smoker I can honestly say it was some of the best shisha I’ve had – the intensity of the flavour was just right and the smoke was perfectly dense.
The shawarma grill in the corner quickly caught my eye. A shawarma wrap is the Arab fast food, almost like a high quality kebab sandwich. Meat such as lamb or chicken is grilled on a vertical spit and shaved off into wrap bread mixed with salad, pickles and garlic sauce. The Momtaz shawarma is out of this world – the perfect balance of succulent lemon marinated chicken and crunchy veg. We ordered a side plate of fattoush that was equally amazing – a chunky Mediterranean style salad with fried pieces of pitta bread as a type of crouton.
I may sound like I love this place a little too much but it is just perfect for relaxing with friends and it’s something different instead of catching up over yet another coffee. Momtaz has become a regular haunt for the YesBoy team (we’re on first name terms, no big deal) and with five other venues across London I urge everyone to experience a taste of the Arab way of life.
Momtaz Shisha Café: Shisha - £12. Shawarma wrap - £3.50.