Chef Josh Katz, who turned a railway arch in East London into the successful grill house Berber & Q, plans to open a shawarma bar close to The City financial district with a little help from brother Paul, a veteran of Goldman Sachs.
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar is scheduled to open in June on Exmouth Market, Farringdon. The new restaurant will specialize in lamb slow-cooked on a spit over hot coals, along with Middle Eastern-style rotisserie chicken. The meat will come with herb salad, green chili, grated tomato, tahini, sumac onion and baby-gem leaves from which diners can make wraps. Extras may include grilled pita, confit potatoes or pickle jars, from £1 ($1.42) and sides such as blackened aubergine (£5.50) and grilled fattoush.
"Shawarma is a nostalgic thing for me because I grew up in Golders Green, which had a whole range of Israeli restaurants," Josh says. "My friends and I used to stop off on our way back from school and get shawarma at least twice a week.
"There's a bit of a challenge to it because in London most people associate shawarma with cheap kebabs - those things like an elephant foot that are bought in and are generic. We are going to make our own shawarma with the brilliant lamb we get for Berber & Q."
It's an interesting team. Josh is a north Londoner who previously cooked at Ottolenghi and Galvin Bistrot Deluxe; Milan-born Mattia Bianchi, who runs the front of house, was a manager at Ottolenghi; Paul worked at Hudson Capital after leaving university, before joining Goldman, where he rose to be co-head of high-yield trading in London.
"People think of trading as stressful but the restaurant business is almost worse," Paul says. "It is a very competitive business and you can't afford to put a foot wrong. Trading gave me a healthy sense of paranoia. With all risk, you have to be disciplined, running the winners and cutting your losses."
Bianchi says the partners are expecting a young crowd and will serve beers, cocktails and wines from small producers. Paul says the business partnership has gone surprisingly well so far.
"My late grandfather's advice to me was that you should never go into business with your brother," he says.