Rosie McGlade enjoys a Lebanese-inspired dinner at home with Barry and Bobby, of Newcastle’s famous hair salon, and takes a peep through their kitchen cupboards…


Certain establishments thrive in a town for so long they become part of its fabric. They’re local treasures, and the latter is fair to say about Bobby and Barry, who for 34 years ran their eponymous hair salon round the corner from Newcastle’s Chinatown, Stowell Street.

It’s Sunday evening and Bobby Mukabaa is pouring champagne and serving dinner with zest; fabulously tanned and in designer leather flip flops after a two-week Caribbean cruise.

Closing the salon, he says, was sad, but his partner Barry Darby’s ill health has prevented him working for four years, and Bobby found that while he enjoyed his clients and his art, he wasn’t enjoying running the business alone.

So he’s taken on the role of creative director at Mode on nearby Percy Street, where his clients have followed him.

And when he’s not styling hair, cruising the Caribbean or hanging out with the beautiful people in VIP lounges, Bobby loves to cook.

“I cook every day with fresh ingredients. If I come in late, I’ll do a nice omelette and a salad, and otherwise I’ll make a proper meal. I do a Sunday roast every weekend, and we always have people round for food.”

We are five, at a beautifully-laid table surrounded by oriental panelling and sculptures; me, Bobby, Barry, his brother Graham, and Kev, our photographer.

“He does fantastic Yorkshire’s,” Graham says (the secret: three eggs per tray of 12. Skimmed milk, no water. Leave it to stand for a while. Very hot olive oil in the tin, which is healthier and still works. Very hot oven and they’ll never sink).

Born and raised in Surrey before moving to Newcastle in 1976, Bobby’s parents left the uncertainty of home in Beirut to start their family, and tonight’s meal has distinct Lebanese roots.

The starter tabbouleh salad is wonderfully light and tastes of summer. The main course of stuffed courgettes in tomato and vegetable sauce depends for its vigour on a superb spice blend called bahar, which Bobby sources from a Lebanese shop in London. A blend of nutmeg, marjoram, mustard and cardamom, it’s very evocative of Lebanon, he says.

The combination of Faustino V Rioja Reserva with this heavenly mix of courgettes, spices, meat, tomato and vegetables is sublime. It’s also hearty, and you can get the bahar blend online from as little as £2.50.

Our dessert of meringue with clotted cream, strawberries, basil leaves and balsamic glaze and olive oil is worth every last calorie, of which there are many. “The first time I made it we had 30 people round for a party, and I worried like mad about using the olive oil and balsamic, but it was great. Everyone loved it,” Bobby remembers.

Bobby and Barry’s apartment is in a two-storey former barrack, off Barrack Road in Newcastle. The upstairs was once a barrack prison, hence the windows that once featured bars, and horses and carts were once kept downstairs.

Today, it’s all open-plan, so Bobby gets to cook and socialise. “I love being able to talk while I’m cooking. The kitchen is my retreat, but I’m never shut in on my own.”

The kitchen is immaculate, with polished wooden flooring, cream gloss cabinets and granite tops. Everything is in its place. Barry’s aunt will be sending one of her lovely cakes the next day, but this is not the sort of home you’d have a Quality Street tin sitting on top of a cupboard.

“There’s nothing we would change, really,” says Bobby. “Some people struggle with granite, but I use a non-toxic granite spray and you never worry about smears. That’s definitely the answer.

“I’m a very methodical worker, so when we’ve people round for dinner, everything’s ready to go and I’ve cleaned up after myself. That way you get to enjoy everyone being there.”

His favourite recipes, apart from those influenced directly from Lebanon, are Delia Smith’s. “I have all her books and all her recipes work out. One of my favourites is chicken Basque, a peasant dish from Spain made with chorizo sausage, orange slices and rice.

“People love my Caesar salad, which I do the New York way, and nicoise salad. I like to make healthy food and spoil people.”

Mezze boards are popular in Lebanon and something you can prepare in advance. Bobby makes his dips from scratch.

“Hummus is easy; you just use chickpeas, garlic, seasoning, tahini paste, and olive oil. Add water, but don’t make it too runny. The idea is you should be able to drop it from a spoon, but it won’t dribble. It’s very versatile – I make a delicious fish dish with hummus, and you can use it very effectively with rice.

“I also make an aubergine dip. You bake them whole for about half an hour till they’re soft and the skin goes crinkly, scrape the insides out, then blend with crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and tahini.”

Stuffed vine leaves are an excellent accompaniment. “A lot of people just stuff them with rice, but I like to use rice and mincemeat with spice, the same as I use in the courgette dish. Soak the rice in boiling water until it’s softened, that’s all it needs, and mix with the raw meat. Divide it into portions, then roll the mix into a sausage shape and wrap each in a vine leaf. Cook them on the hob in tomato sauce or stock until the meat and rice are done, and then serve up with lemon juice.”

As we leave, and Bobby is hanging over the first-floor balcony waving. “Make it up! Write anything you like, Rosie!” I don’t need to. What a lovely evening.

Mode Hairdressing, 61-63 Percy Street, Newcastle, tel 0191 233 2722




Starter: Tabbouleh salad. Bobby soaks the tabbouleh in lots of lemon juice until it swells and softens, before mixing in cucumber, tomato, spring onion, black pepper and salt. The secret is to use masses of chopped fresh parsley and mint. Then drizzle with olive oil to taste, and serve on crisp lettuce.

Main course: Stuffed courgettes in tomato and vegetable sauce. Bobby mixes raw mincemeat and half cooked rice with salt and pepper and bahar spice blend, takes out the insides of the courgettes, mixes and fills. The courgettes are then put in a casserole dish surrounded by sliced potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, seasoning, fresh and tinned tomatoes, more spices and herbs, and baked until everything is soft and the meat is cooked through.

Dessert: Whole meringues, clotted cream and strawberries, sprinkled with basil leaves, balsamic glaze and olive oil. Easy – and wonderful.



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