As one of the latest growing trends of Israeli restaurants in London, Bala Baya certainly lives up to its hype. Its approach of aggressive pre-launch marketing led to its soft launch to be completely fully booked. The discount off its menu price did help, but this is a fine example of a modern restaurant that has got its marketing strategy spot on. We went a few weeks after the soft launch and it was still busy! As a bakery in the morning and a pitta kiosk and mezzanine lunch spot, it was the evening restaurant that we tried. Living in a modern interior, this place certainly houses the feel of the vibrant city of Tel Aviv: music playing, waiters dancing and most importantly great food served. If there was ever a place that reminded me of my visit to the White City, then this place is it. Youthful, energetic, modern and fun, Bala Baya brings together two of the most important things in life and highlights this unique relationship between food and people.
Morito’s take on the classic calamari was delicious, but the Calamari and Jam at Bala Baya takes it to the next level. The perfectly crispy and deep fried squid is served with butternut and saffron jam, which brings out this citris flavours, giving it a pleasant tang. This is finished off with the thick lime aioli, perfectly balancing this calamari interpretation.
You really cannot skip out a hummus dish when having any Israeli food. Chickpea and Ox is a combination of braised oxtail and the high protein bean-turned hummus. The combinations of tahini and chickpeas make a great hummus and this warm dish was flavorful and great with bread!
The first section of the menu is under the heading of FEAST, with a Fish & Fennel sea bass dish and Beef & Onion. The latter was a chunk of braised beef shoulder sitting on top of onions, tomatoes and herbs, all mixed in with whipped tahini. The flavour combinations were quite unique and it all combined well together with the juicy beef sauce surrounding the plate.
Burnt Babka immediately jumped out of the menu at first glance. It was a mightily hearty dish, stewed plums mixed with thick flavours of chocolate, hazelnut and sprinkled with crunchy caramelised pecans and bringing it all together with a whisked anglaise. Flavours were just at the right level of sweetness and each ingredient jumps out at you with each bite. A perfect way to end a cheerful and happy evening.
More Than Just Dinner
With the restaurant billed as a morning bakery, afternoon pita kiosk and a mezzanine lunch spot, it really epitomises a proper Israeli dining spot, so similar to the ones in Tel-Aviv. Their grab and go lunches are takes on classic dishes and even their cocktail menus includes regional flavours like gazos. Bala Baya not only provides great modern takes of Israeli food but also an amazing atmosphere, bringing me back to the streets of Tel-Aviv.
Times: Mon – Thurs: 12 – 23.30, Sat: 10.30 – 16.00, 18.00 – 23.30; Sun: 10.30 – 17.00
Location: Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR
Also published on Medium.