‘It’s tough, but we carry on for you’

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‘It’s tough, but we carry on for you’

The owners of kosher eaterie Sababa tell Brigit Grant why they’ve been keeping the kitchens open throughout lockdown

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

There is something innately sad about chairs piled on tables. Even when life was good, it was a sight that signalled the end of a really great evening and a time to reluctantly exit. Now, chairs on tables  means something very different. “It’s definitely tough,” says Sababa manager Julio Mattera.

“For us, the important thing is to keep going.” 

That has been the mantra at Sababa since the first lockdown in March last year and, almost a year later, freezing sleet on a miserable Sunday doesn’t throw the staff off-track. 

On the contrary, it’s all smiles and positivity at the food stand outside the double-fronted kosher eaterie in Borehamwood where Lucian is manning the stall.


“More chocolate sauce?” asks Lucian, as four-year-old Alex eyes his smartie-laden waffle. Alex is wrapped up for winter, unlike Lucian in only a jumper (trousers obviously), woolly hat, obligatory mask and plastic gloves, but proving good service isn’t confined to eating in.  

“We know some people are very nervous about entering restaurants and this stall puts them at ease,” says Julio, who thinks outside access to pizzas, waffles and crepes (savoury and sweet) is good in any weather.

“We can bring out all food orders from the menu for customers to take away and there’s coffee and cake while you wait.”

Jack, 10, doesn’t have much of a wait before his strawberry and Nutella waffle arrives – an edible joy much needed on yet another grey Covid day and parents appreciate it, as even the Hampstead crêperie has closed because of social distancing breaches.

Manning the stall outside Sababa

Julio has been at the helm at Sababa while the owner, Hannan, got married in India and also had to deal with the sudden and tragic loss of  both his parents.

Coping in such challenging times is a universal struggle and Julio knows his support is essential, particularly as he and Hannan, together with Romanian-born Marius Cezar Cretu own the next-door eaterie Balagan. 

Breakfast anyone?

Busy with take-out, the fascination for Balagan’s Middle Eastern menu is not just about the tasty food, but because the three entrepreneurial restaurateurs are not Jewish. 

Enjoying Sababa!

“Three non-Jews getting a full kosher licence was big news when it ran in Jewish News,” laughs Julio and, on cue, a kashrut supervisor drops in for a spot-check. Julio isn’t flustered as he and his partners worked and got educated at Soyo, Pizaza and Pizoyo before venturing into the complex kosher food landscape. “We had to know everything and now we take as much care with observing the rules as we do with the freshness of our food.” 

Chef Khalid from Morocco had been in the kitchen since 11am preparing breakfasts and midday meals (the shakshuka breakfasts are in demand) just as the classic fish and chips is a popular favourite for lunch and dinner. 


All of the menu (fish, pasta, huge salads and noodles) is available to order for delivery, but call Sababa direct as, according to Julio, the surcharges are huge on the well known apps beloved by our home-schooled children ordering food. 

And it’s not just the delivery apps Julio doesn’t like, as he dislikes the area’s new parking restrictions created by cordoned flower boxes and pavement widening. “But we keep going,” he says with a nod to the growing queue for waffles outside.  

For Valentine’s Day, Sababa invites those who want to treat a loved one to order a meal as a surprise and they will deliver it –
anonymously, if required.


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