If December has left you feeling tired of beige party food and roast dinners, why not start the new year by trying some fresh new flavours?

Bab Tooma has been bringing a taste of Syria to Yorkshire for almost eight years. This independent local restaurant chain offers generously-sized portions of a variety of authentic Middle Eastern dishes, which are made using old family recipes that have been passed down through the generations. These are tasty and nutritious, and there are plenty of choices for those following a vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diet too.

Bab Tuma, or the ‘Gate of Thomas’, is one of the seven gates of Damascus and is an important landmark in the history of early Christianity. The restaurant’s founders, Eyad Charbatji and Qusay Amer, chose this name as they felt it represented ‘unity for Syrian society where people from different backgrounds live and meet’.

Both Syrian born, Eyad and Qusay met while studying in Leeds. The pair wanted to share the delicious food of their homeland and in 2016 they opened West Yorkshire’s first Syrian restaurant on Wilton Street in Bradford. Five successful years later, a second branch arrived in Roundhay, Leeds, and they were also able to move into a larger Bradford premises. In November 2022, Bab Tooma took over 63 Goodramgate in York, transforming the building that was once Café Luca with an interior that emulates the ambience of a Levantine courtyard.

Each of Bab Tooma’s branches has this same charm and character with details like faux stone walls and hanging glass lanterns that bring a little of the outside in. The York restaurant features a ceiling trellis with entwined greenery and rich red kilim-style tapestries on its wooden seats.

On the menu here, you’ll find a range of beautifully presented salad bowls and mezze. Among the cold options are dips like hummus, mutabbal (tahini, yoghurt and grilled aubergine) or muhammara (grilled red pepper and almond), which can be enjoyed with Arabic bread. The hot mezze includes filled pastry rolls and kebbeh (bulgar wheat balls) made with either spiced minced lamb or garlic chickpeas. Hot and cold platters are also available for those who would like to share or graze.

Bab Tooma has gained a reputation for its grilled meats, which are marinated in house each day. If you’d like to try them, you can pick two skewers, choosing from chicken wings or fillets, shish taouk, shawarma lamb kebab or lamb fillets. These can then be accompanied by your choice of side.

For those with a sweet tooth, the chefs here also make traditional Arabic desserts, including delicious baklawa and kunafa (shredded filo pastry stuffed with cheese and double cream).

Bab Tooma doesn’t sell alcohol, however, you’ll find all of your favourite soft drinks here, along with tempting house mocktails and hot drinks like Turkish and Saudi coffee or Arabic or Moroccan tea. Alternatively, the restaurant has a ‘bring your own bottle’ policy with no fee for corkage.