KURDISH PECKHAM RESTAURANTS | BARS | STREET FOOD SOUTH LONDON

Yada’s Kurdish Restaurant, Peckham

June 18, 2015

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This article first appeared in The Peckham Peculiar

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Yada’s Kurdish restaurant exists. In fact it didn’t until very recently, and to find it, you’ll need to walk all the way up the little side street that is home to Ali’s Fresh Fruit, around the corner and into the space of a railway arch.

The restaurant is named after a young man called Yada Baban, although when I arrive it’s his aunt, Pary Baban that I find behind the counter. She is “helping out, just until he finds his feet”, before she returns to her own business, a sandwich shop in Elephant and Castle. For now however, the eponymous Yada is happy to let her take the reigns. Originally from Southern Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq, Pary came to the UK in 1995, after the outbreak of the Iraqi-Kurdish civil war. “When I arrived, the very first thing I did was attending the college to learn the English language! She laughs, “very important! Then I did hairdressing and beauty therapy but I didn’t like it, so with my husband I started a sandwich bar.”

Pary’s brother runs Ali Baba Fruit ‘n Veg (well known to Peckham residents) and he was previously using the Yada’s space to store his produce. It’s not hard to tell that it has been only recently transformed into a restaurant, if I’m honest, but the place has bags of ramshackle charm and despite looking hurriedly put together, is welcoming and cosy, with wall hangings and instruments dotted about. Pary is quick to admit she thinks it needs “a little change around”, but I feel that I immediately want to sit down to eat, and there is plenty to get stuck into. The restaurant serves Kurdish specialties only, and I watch eagerly as Pary piles them up for me to taste.

“We make all the food here, all of it”, she tells me. There are stuffed crispy rice cases called kubba, filled with meat or vegetables, a little like the similar sounding Levantine snack kibbeh (which use bulgur wheat casings). They’re pleasantly crisp, yet chewy with gently spiced filling. As a food writer, I’m excited – it’s always a thrill to encounter something completely unfamiliar. There is a shami kebab, which Pary describes as ‘minced chicken, with spices, and herbs” and a bowl of “signature recipe” hummus, which is, unexpectedly, green. “It’s our own recipe, Pary explains, “we have normal hummus as well, but we make this one as people really, really love kale”. She’s right of course – kale has been a big recent food trend – so no one can say this lady doesn’t have her finger on the pulse.

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The magnificant chicken shawarma spit at Yada’s

There are chopped salads, too, made with the feathery bunches of fresh herbs lined up along the counter; there’s thick, tart yoghurt with dill; large pots of home made pickles, including mixed pickle and some fierce, skinny green chillies; there are flat, disc-shaped falafel, and dolma made with cabbage leaves, which are “stuffed with aubergine, onion, mixed vegetable, chilli, cumin and sometimes sumac”. There is a mound of coarse bulgur wheat with a very gentle tomato flavour, plus another of fluffy white rice, both of which make perfect accompaniments for all the highly flavoured patties and pickles. In a case alongside I spot giant breads, called kalana, a type of Kurdish flat bread traditionally cooked on a huge, round hot plate. It strikes me that this cuisine is very exciting for vegetarians and Pary confirms, “we have many people now who are vegetarians; Kurdish food has lots of choice {for them}”.

They’ve been open only a few weeks but already business is picking up, “people have been coming, and they love it; they come back again in the evening. We’ve already started taking bookings.” She also reveals that they have plans for expansion, “we are trying to open also a BBQ outside, especially for summer; they will try to do shisha, and we have applied for a license to have a wine bar as well”. You have to admire their resourcefulness in setting the place up for minimal cost; flowers are planted in stacks of tires and the restaurant sign and menu consist of hasty chalk scribbles.

Do you know any other people doing Kurdish food in London? I ask, “we do, but they don’t do just Kurdish food like us. On the Edgware Road they do it, but it is more generally Middle Eastern.” Could it be that I have found one of London’s first exclusively Kurdish restaurants, tucked away down a side street in Peckham? If I have, then I am very happy – the food is great, the people are charming and what luck that it’s right here on our doorstep.

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The chicken shawarma wrap. Beautifully simple. Juicy chicken, full of flavour, with garlic sauce. 

Yada’s Kurdish Restaurant, past Ali’s fresh fruit and veg on Rye Lane, under a railway arch.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Bobby Stearns June 19, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks Helen, another great find right there on our doorstep! How was their garlic sauce? I’m a sucker for a well-made toum. I usually have to traipse over to Barbar’s Lebanese Restaurant in North Acton for the best I’ve come across. Can’t wait to try Yada’s!

    • Helen
      Reply Helen June 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Hey Bobby. The garlic sauce was good! Although not as strong as I like it. If you like a really baddass toum, get yourself to Berber and Q (go early otherwise it’s a bit of a nightmare) in Haggerston. Their toum is SO strong. Amazing. I know it sounds like it will be awful because it’s in Haggerston but trust me, the place is excellent. You may have read about it already.

    • Reply Deborah Rea April 27, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      does anyone know the phone number for Yada’s?

  • Reply Sarah July 20, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Helen, this looks great and we visited Saturday afternoon/evening and it was closed :-(. Do you know their opening hours? Can’t find anything on the net.

    • Helen
      Reply Helen July 20, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Hi Sarah, I’m really sorry, I don’t know. That’s often the danger with these small places, they tend to close and open rather randomly. I’m surprised it was closed at the time you visited though. I don’t think I’ve seen any official opening hours. Sorry I can’t be of more help. H

  • Reply Littlejungleman July 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Hours are midday to midnight mon-sat. Midday to 11pm sunday

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