Chef Imad Alarnab has brought his Syrian Kitchen to London, making it possible for me to do my bit by stuffing my face
Because I am a desiccated old prune in a young man’s body, pop-ups have always been businesses I don’t understand, run by people I don’t like. Harbingers of gentrification. Often, a way for big brands to show how spontaneous and funky they are, bro, while testing out a new revenue stream, and capitalising on cultural trends. Even the word is annoying. Pop-up. Like a book for people who don’t like books, or a freaky toy in a horror film. You know what else pops up? A rash.
Then I was invited to a supper club run by a refugee – Imad’s Choose Love Syrian Kitchen, which demonstrated the flexible, responsive advantages of pop-ups so convincingly, I changed my mind about everything I previously thought. It happens a lot. “I took a wrong turning on the way, because I was cold,” I say to Imad Alarnab, a man who escaped bombing, and made his way to this country through nine others, sometimes on foot. Luckily, he is a large, warm man who laughs a lot. Alarnab was a star chef in Damascus, owner of three restaurants, as well as juice bars and cafes. His “almost perfect” life was made less perfect by the arrival of civil war, but now that he is here, he wants to help those left behind. The proceeds from this weekly event, run with the charity Help for Refugees, directly fund Hope Hospital, a paediatric facility and the only hospital in northern Aleppo. The hospital will close in one month without the support. Never has the phrase “Can we have the bill” seemed so fraught.