I will readily admit I hadn’t done my research when I charged up to Sesame. I was decidedly late, which I hate to be, having left work late and then subsequently battled delayed tubes and the suffocating throng collected in Leicester Square. I fail to comprehend how, in a city creaking at the seams with history and culture, the M&M factory still draws in crowds. That’s by the by what I had come for was a catch up with a friend and some delicious food.
Believe it or not Sesame was my first brush with an Ottolenghi enterprise. I knew I liked his style of food – I’m lucky to have a housemate who rustles up his recipes regularly, big win. What I hadn’t quite clocked, however, was that Sesame is in fact more of a fast food joint than a sit in café. The reality of it was just unexpected but once inside it was clear, this was no ordinary grab and go lunch spot though, with Ottolenghi behind it, it was never likely to be.
The shop is full of packets and pots full of all sorts of enticing treats in bright colours. Little bags of intriguing snacks adorn the counter and hot parcels of pitta are rustled up at your request. It has already been described as the ‘poshest kebab shop in town’ and you can see where the tongue in cheek comparison stems from, but I rather feel it could more aptly be compared to a very grown up sweet shop; Mediterranean street food pick ‘n’ mix. Just as with pick and mix, I struggled to rein in my spending.
I opted for hearty harissa couscous, a vibrant pot of red pepper and feta ‘something’ (I was sold by it’s looks more than it’s name!) and then a last-minute impulse bag of sesame brittle.
Tucked in the second seating area downstairs, we delved in. Frankly the harissa couscous was utterly uninspiring. I didn’t get an ounce of warmth from the harissa, the veg scattered across the top very quickly disappeared giving way to a clot of couscous below which left a lot to be desired, particularly given the £5.45 price tag.
The lamb kebab, swathed in pillowy pitta looked far more substantial and infinitely more bang for your buck so if I were to go back, I would make a beeline straight for that.
The accoutrements were worth trying particularly since he pepper pot also came in handy for jazzing up my couscous. The sesame brittle was a flashback to my childhood and sesame snaps. These may be a tarted up version, packed in shards into a lovely little bag but I think there’s an argument to be made for buying a four-pack off the supermarket shelf at a fraction of the price.
Overall, would I say go, yes. Would I say go for dinner with a friend, no. Sesame is really designed for the lunch trade or for lone diners grabbing a bite en route. My only advice is pick a pitta.