Meet the Gift Gang

This week we are featuring Sayeda from the restaurant Hiba Express in London.

We always get amazing feedback about eating there.

Shamim said,

"I visited Hiba express today. The food was delicious and Sayeda is so lovely. This is a perfect gift for someone going through cancer."

Here's Sayeda to tell us more.

I started off life as a geneticist and then a senior teaching fellow at UCL with a few moves in between. I always had a passion for eating and Hiba Express was my favourite place to dine as Middle Eastern cuisine is dominated by mezzes and sharing platters and I am a very social and sociable eater. One day I went to pay the bill and the new owner asked me why I ate there so much - and that started a three year journey of me leaving academia and moving into the hospitality business. I have now been working in Hiba Express full time for almost two years and there has never been a dull moment! The restaurant is owned by an amazing Palestinian family (I do have a thing about Palestinians and Palestine!) and the cuisine is inspired by the Palestinian influences on Lebanese food. Over half the menu is vegan and apart from the ketchup and bread - everything is made fresh daily. The vibe is definitely casual - we want everyone to be able to enjoy delicious and healthy food and we host everyone from students to TV personalities.

My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, and a couple of months later, my younger sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Both were just incredible - their strength and vivacity despite the year long treatment is unforgettable. My sister joined Ellie's Friends and won a few treats such as theatre tickets and beauty treatments, which she got excited about and enjoyed immensely. One day I asked her what I could do and she said, "Give a meal for two at Hiba." So we now have this great offer every month where a person living with cancer can enjoy a meal with a friend as our guest. 

Dining out is always a treat and an opportunity to relax over a meal. Winners have come with their partners, best friends and carers - and sometimes even the family - and there is plenty for all. We love our customers and we try and ensure we come to say hello to Ellie's winners (I've managed to meet most!). I do not think there are many people who have not had some dealings with cancer today and so we have great respect for our guests. On one occasion we had a winner, and my sister was also dining at Hiba, so it was lovely to introduce them to each other. 

It's so tricky to say what my favourite dish is but I would say my go to dish is the Moussakat Batinjaan which is a wickedly moorish mix of aubergines, peppers, chickpeas and tomatoes in a vibrant sauce and I can eat it every day!

At Ellie's Friends we rely on the generosity of people like Sayeda so if you or someone you know could donate their services or a gift we would love to hear from you or them - please email with your ideas!