In Iraq it’s usual to eat everything with bread, including rice. Look around at Abu Ali and you’ll see people using sesame-sprinkled flat bread to scoop up piles of textural biryani with almonds, pine nuts and crispy sharia noodles. All of the flat breads at Abu Ali are made by hand and cooked against the side of a traditional tandoor oven.

Mosslem Alzargani is Abu Ali’s charismatic founder. His favourite from the menu is the teeman ala baggella, a buttery broad bean and dill rice dish served with a succulent lamb shank.

Next to the tandoor is the other essential Iraqi cooking companion, the open fire charcoal grill. Alzargani and his sons use the open flame to cook the restaurant’s famous kebabs and masgûf, an Iraqi-style roast fish. First the fish has to be salted and marinated and then it’s cooked, usually for more than an hour, above an open flame until the fish’s fat has burnt off (Alzargani imports fatty river fish to emulate what would normally be caught in the Tigris or Euphrates). It comes to the table splayed like a spatchcock with an incredible orange glaze.

While you’re waiting for the masgûf to cook, snack on hummus, babaganoush, and house-made pickles with kubba al mosul, a burghal pancake made with lamb mince that’s baked and fried to give it a crunchy texture.

For a particularly unique experience, try Abu Ali’s traditional Iraqi breakfast with a variety of Iraqi spiced eggs and pacha, a rigorously prepared bowl of sheep’s head parts. For those squirming at the idea of tasting eye and tongue, remember people in Iraq eat that every day for no other reason than that it’s delicious.

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Updated: March 13th, 2018

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