Beso London review: Delicious Moorish cuisine in a relaxed West End setting
Beso London is the newest foodie addition to the West End. Billed as a Moorish restaurant, the menu takes inspiration from Morocco and Spain. The new establishment is headed up by founder chef Khalid Dahbi, who has worked in Michelin-starred Le Meurice and L’Arpège in Paris, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, the Gaucho, and Bibendum Restaurant. Situated on the fringes of Covent Garden at the less hectic end of Shaftesbury Avenue, Beso is a refreshing addition to the area’s culinary offerings, which tend to be dominated by chain restaurants.
The venue offers a choice of outdoor and indoor tables. The night of my visit was hot so the terrace was understandably in high demand, so we decided to dine indoors and were thrilled to be offered the Chef’s Table, aka the Firebar. The space features low-lighting, modern art and subtle mosaic detailing, giving a contemporary Moorish feel. Although primarily a dining destination, there is also seating at the bar if you just fancied a quick drink or pre-food cocktails.
Pulling up comfortable bar stools at the marble Firebar, we had a great view into the kitchen so could see and smell the food being cooked. The beauty of sitting at the Firebar meant Chef Khalid could explain the dishes to us and show us the individual ingredients being added. Reading ingredients on a menu is one thing, but being able to see the quality and quantity of them being added to your food was really enlightening. We kicked things off with a glass of Cava with some nibbles as we decided between going off the menu or opting for ‘the Beso Experience’. My friend and I were up for a culinary adventure so after stipulating our dietary requirements, signed up for the experience, which translates as small plates of Beso’s best dishes using the freshest ingredients that day.
We began with the starter-esque sharing plates, along with a bottle of a Portuguese white, Fernão Pires Verdelho, Ai Galera, – recommended by the chef – which was a refreshing and delicate accompaniment. Our first dish was some Crispy Chickpeas with Cumin and Paprika; and Moroccan Sardines with Basil and Chichurra. I liked the different approach to chickpeas, which can be quite a boring food if not seasoned correctly, while the sardines were absolutely delicious. Thinly sliced and served cold, the sardines tasted so fresh and were well complemented by the Basil and Chichurra. We moved on to another fish dish, Smoked Mackerel Pate with Smoked Nuts with bread. It was incredibly more-ish (or should that be Moorish! – ha). Continuing the fish dominance, we had an old favourite of Calamari with Crème Fraiche, Lemon Zest and Harissa, with Chef Khalid garnishing it in front of us, really bringing the kitchen action to the table. Adding some vegetables into the mix, we had a delicious Aubergine Salad with Mixed Peppers and Spinach. The Duck Pastilla was a big hit with my friend. A Moroccan dish of duck wrapped in pastry, cumin, flaked almonds and cinnamon, which proved an interesting and tasty mix of sweet and savoury.
After our many starter, sharing plates, we moved on to the mains. I like Hake as a fish, but find some chefs don’t flavour it enough. Fortunately, Beso’s version of Hake with Courgette, Spinach Sauce and Watercress was right up my street as it was combined with some of my favourite vegetables, which gave the dish a lighter feel. Meanwhile, my friend really enjoyed the Poussin Chicken with Apple and Hampshire Watercress, an unusual dish. She was surprised at how well and chicken and apple worked together. We completed our mains with a tender Cauliflower with Aubergine, Courgettes, Sweet Potato, Caramelised Onions, Prunes and Harissa.
After our main meal at the Firebar, it had become quieter outside so the waiting staff offered to transfer us alfresco to finish off our evening with cocktails and dessert. As both of us had a sweet tooth, we were offered the option of a dessert platter rather than individual dishes. Our tray of treats featured White Pannacotta with Rose Water, Chocolate Cake, Edible Flowers and Raspberry Sorbet. They all tasted fabulous, but I particularly loved the combination of chocolate and raspberry together – heavenly! Meanwhile, we opted for the Beso twist on an Aperol Spritz – the refreshing Spritz Especial (Aperol, Grapefruit Juice, Cava and a hint of Soda Water), and their signature cocktail – Beso Sensation (Vodka, Passoa, Chambord, Orange Juice and Passion Fruit), which tasted like a smoothie as the fruit overpowered any alcohol taste.
Overall, we had a brilliant experience. The food, drinks and service were excellent. What I loved about the cuisine was the combination of sweet and savoury, fresh ingredients to make dishes which really popped. When I dine out, I often end up preferring one dish as a favourite, but I really enjoyed so many of the various plates. Watching and talking to the chefs in action while dining was an added benefit. While the food is high quality, the venue has a relaxed, neighbourhood vibe. With its prime location in the West End, it would be a great place for a catch-up with friends or pre-theatre dining.
- Beso, Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden, WC2H 8JL. Nearest stations: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Beso London website.
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