The east London pop-up kitchen run by a Syrian refugee to fund the only children’s hospital in northern Aleppo

A Syrian refugee has launched a pop-up kitchen in Shoreditch to raise funds for the only children’s hospital in Aleppo.

Imad Alarnab, with charity Help Refugees, is inviting Londoners to “eat falafel and save a life” at his new restaurant on Columbia Road, with all profits raised going to Hope Hospital.

The hospital is the only paediatric facility in the region, serving more than 250,000 people, and providing incubators for new born babies as well as offering treatments for pregnant and postnatal women.

But in a month, if funds are not raised, Hope Hospital will be forced to close, Help Refugees have warned.

Now Londoners can “experience the true taste of Syria” at Imad’s Choose Love Kitchen, with £15 of the ticket price going towards keeping the hospital open.

Customers are served a three course traditional Syrian meal (@ThePositiveJournalist)

Guests are served a traditional Syrian three course meal cooked by Mr Alarnab, one of Damascus’ most successful restaurateurs, with dishes ranging from smoked roasted pepper and aubergine dip to baba ghanoush, falafel and chicken and freekah lamb.

Mr Alarnab was a successful restaurateur in Damascus, with three restaurants and several cafes and juice bars.

But he was forced to flee the country in 2015 amid brutal civil war, which destroyed his livelihood.

Last year, Mr Alarnab opened his first pop-up, ‘Imad’s Syrian Kitchen’, at the same location in east London, with the support of local and national charities.

Mr Alarnab was a successful restaurateur in Damascus before he was forced to flee the country (Help Refugees & Stefan Jakubowski)

And following a series of sell-out supper clubs in the capital, which the chef says has been a very welcoming city, Mr Alarnab has now set his sights on raising money “for the people who really need it”. 

The chef told the Standard: “The restaurant is very important to me as it’s for a really good cause. 

“Especially when you know exactly the people who are getting the benefit, when you know they are very in need.”

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He added: “For years I have had this dream. From the day I left Syria until today, I wanted to use my cooking to bring people together to experience the true taste of Syria.

“This restaurant is about giving something back; to the people of Britain who have welcomed me; and to the people of Syria who really need our help right now.”

Mr Alarnab has continued to cook for others since he left Syria, travelling through Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France before arriving in the UK.

Money raised from the supper club goes towards Hope Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the Aleppo region (Help Refugees)

“It was really difficult but it was nice because I was meeting new friends every day,” he said. 

He first met the team at Help Refugees in Calais, where he cooked for around 50 people a day from the steps of a church.

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He said: “It was very basic, we only had a picnic bowl and one knife. It was difficult to cook but we stayed for 64 days and cooked for many different people.”

Help Refugees decided they wanted to join up with Mr Alarnab to create the new supper club around two months ago after seeing an increase in attacks in Syria.

People are invited to “eat falafel and save a life” (Help Refugees & Stefan Jakubowski )

Tom Steadman, of Help Refugees explained the idea behind the restaurant, which was put together in the space of a month.

He said: “We wanted to do something that gives people a simple way to help.

“This last month has been horrific in terms of the increase in attacks, and we realised we needed to do something.”

He added: “Everyone loves going out with their friends and this gives them a way to help.

The pop-up has been extended until June, with potential to stay open for longer (Help Refugees)

“People come and stuff their faces with falafel and they can help people.”

Mr Alarnab said he wants the supper club to feel like a Syrian home. 

He said: “I want people to experience what it’s like back at our houses. A Syrian house is known for generosity.”

He added: “Syrian cuisine is not very popular. It’s not the same as Turkish or Lebanese food. The thing is it’s amazing because it’s got a bit of everything, it’s really original.

Mr Alarnab said he wants the pop-up to feel like a Syrian home (Help Refugees)

“This is why I want people to see that, that’s why I want people to try it.”

The chef and Help Refugees are hoping to become the sole breadwinners for Hope Hospital.

Imad Alarnab: the Syrian refugee raising money for the only children’s hospital in northern Aleppo (@ThePositiveJournalist)

With an initial run from March 29 to the end of May, the restaurant is now taking bookings until the end of June and may continue to stay open beyond that time if fully-booked.   

Mr Alarnab said he will keep changing the menu every other week.

Syrian refugee launches pop-up restaurant in east London

From this week, the restaurant will serve traditional Syrian ice cream for dessert, which is only sold in Al-Hamidiyah Souq in Damascus.

Josie Naughton, chief executive of Help Refugees, said: “The recent bombing campaigns in Syria have been absolutely atrocious and we knew we had to do something to help. 

“Working with Imad, we wanted to create something positive amid the chaos. 

“A place where the British public can see refugees contributing to the culture of Britain, and at the same time give people a simple, practical way to help those most in need.”

Customers can buy a ticket online for £40, with two sittings for 20 people per night (and two per day on Sundays).

The pop-up operates a BYO policy and asks for a £5 corkage donation that will go directly to Hope Hospital.

It is fully staffed by Help Refugees volunteers.

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