Founded in East London by Nathalie Moukarzel and Meg Doherty, this Lebanese-inspired restaurant and natural wine bar, Sohalia hits all the right spots – with a divine menu and a generous social heart. The restaurant arm of social enterprise, Fat Macy’s, Sohalia extends the mission to support people to move on from temporary accommodation into homes, through culinary and hospitality training. Ahead of ‘A Celebration of Olives’ – Sohalia’s collaborative event with award-winning oil producer Honest Toil on Wednesday 22 November, we talked to Nathalie to find out more…
Where does the name Sohaila come from?
We named Sohaila after my sweet grandmother – a strong, honest, and open-hearted woman who I absolutely adore. A lot of the recipes and essence of the menu is influenced by her.
Where did you learn your cooking skills?
It was going to my grandmother’s home one summer in Ajaltoun, Lebanon that I first felt inspired to cook. I think I was around 12 years old. Seeing how these brilliant women in my family laughed together, as they seamlessly rolled slick beautiful vine leaves packed with glistening rice and sweet onions. Watching mountains of aubergines being fried and gracefully picking through never ending parsley – I knew I wanted to be part of that love and kindness that exists between people. That is how it feels now when I walk into the kitchen at Sohaila and hear the chefs and trainees talking about their weeks. All while filleting a fish, stirring the mujadarra, or rolling those vine leaves seamlessly.
What do you think has heralded the Middle Eastern food movement in London?
The fact that it’s delicious! But it’s not quite there yet – there’s a lot more to share, once we break down through the falafel and hummus walls.
What are your signature dishes?
Aubergine Maghmour, lamb stuffed vine leaves, and the Loubieh, of course.
What inspires you to cook?
When I love something, I need to share it. Introducing and enjoying excellent flavours and recipes have been a core part of how we connect with each other at Fat Macy’s. I learnt from a young age how much fun trying out recipes was and talking through unknown ingredients can bring people together. I’m inspired by the unknowns and the blending together of different food processes.
Tell us more about your work with Fat Macy’s?
The Fat Macy’s programme sets out to help people move from hostel to home, and they learn a little about the industry on the way. It is a pleasure to work with everyone at Sohaila.
What else can we expect from Sohalia? What plans do you have for the rest of the year – any pop ups or events?
We have an event celebrating olives and Lebanese independence on Wednesday 22 November – that’s going to be a fun one! And Alex our head of beverage has a few awesome wine events up his sleeve – keep your eyes peeled for more info.
Do you live East London and if so, where?
I live in Hackney and I love it. There’s always good food around, excellent places to pick up ingredients and awesome restaurants springing up.
What are your favourite East London restaurants?
232 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6PJ