Peace, hummus and falafels: London restaurant puts Syrian crisis on the menu

by Umberto Bacchi | @UmbertoBacchi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 22 September 2017 13:15 GMT

Diners share tables at the Conflict Café Syria, a pop-up restaurant in London, Britain September 21, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Shanshan Chen

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"We are encouraging people to take everyday small actions to help build peace right where they are"

By Umberto Bacchi

LONDON, Sept 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Better known for their taste, hummus and baba ganoush might also be good for conflict resolution - or at least that's the hope of a pop-up restaurant in London that has put the Syrian crisis on the menu.

Conflict Café Syria opened in the British capital on the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 in a bid to encourage discussions about peace prospects in the war-torn country by serving some of its food delicacies.

Chef Haitham Yassin, of Damascus, said creamy dips, along with falafels, stuffed aubergines and other home-feel traditional dishes were great at setting the table for polite political talk.

"You can't eat while you are nervous," Yassin, who has worked in London for 30 years, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Chef Haitham Yassi (R) in the kitchen of Conflict Café Syria, a pop-up eatery in London, Britain September 21, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Shanshan Chen

About 40 people sat at the restaurant's communal tables on the first night of its three day residency in an event venue in central London.

The eatery launched at a time when the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year, appears to have lost urgency on the diplomatic agenda with much of the attention at the U.N. General Assembly this week focused on North Korea.

"I would like people ... to come out of this evening with at least a small thought to keep the Syrian problem in their minds, talk about it ... and maybe interact with parliament to do something about it," said Yassin.

Diners who enjoyed the 40 pounds ($54) three-course meal were also fed information about the Syrian refugee crisis and took part in a team quiz with questions about the country's people and culture.

"The food is amazing and we're learning a lot about what's going on," said customer Pablo Hernandez Urzola. "It's a very fun night, full of great flavours".

Food was an excuse to bring people together and build bridges between cultures, said Caroline Brooks, Syria projects manager for International Alert, the charity behind the event.

"We are encouraging people to take everyday small actions to help build peace right where they are," she said.

Since 2011, the war has forced more than five million people to flee Syria.

($1 = 0.7365 pounds)

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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