Bala Baya is a Tel Aviv style eatery & bar by Israeli born Chef Eran Tibi, located in south London and known for its weekend brunch feasts. I am a fan and so is my friend Federica Carr, a food writer at Pasta Bites blog. I asked her to revisit the restaurant to try their brunch menu for Mondomulia. Read her review below.
Bala Baya, London
Bala Baya is the first stand-alone project from Israeli born Chef Eran Tibi. His creations draw ideas from traditional Israeli dishes whilst adding the unique essence of Bala Baya. They opened a number of years ago in Union Street arches, a charming pedestrianised area under the railway arches between Southwark and Borough. A number of cafes and restaurants as well as fringe theatres make a stroll this side of town worthwhile.
We used to visit Bala Baya often when they opened. It’s convenient for us, it’s dog friendly and offers a delectable menu of middle eastern inspired dishes and cocktails. For some reason though we had stopped visiting shortly after our son was born in 2017. Visiting again (in October, before the second lockdown) on behalf of Mondomulia was the perfect excuse to finally come back!
The venue is bright, despite being under a red brick railway arch; the mezzanine floor upstairs is quite suited to groups (in better times of course) and perhaps evening meals. Downstairs – by the bar and open plan kitchen – there are a number of smaller tables while outside the partially sheltered terrace offers the option to dine with friends right now when COVID rules prevent mixed households from meeting indoors.
Brunch (available every Saturday and Sunday) starts at 11am, which is when we arrived. For us, with a lively 4 years old and a (well behaved) dog, the earlier the better, when venues aren’t too busy just yet. The team welcomed us warmly and we sat down at one of the downstairs tables and proceeded to scout the menu.
I remember their alcohol free fruity drinks from our previous visits and so we ordered a couple straight away. Their brunch cocktails – for those who prefer drinking something alcoholic – are superb choices too.
The menu is eclectic and does have something for everyone. The dishes encourage sharing in its true form with a hands-on, hands-in approach to family-style dining that focuses on the pure enjoyment of fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients. And right now, family style approach is the only way to really share food!
Bala Baya offers main dishes, sharing platters and sides and we had something from each section. I finally made my decision and picked a Rippled Eggs & Salt Baked Trout Shawarma with a zingy dill sour cream celery & herbs, salad. While it looked like it could have been a quite heavy dish, it really wasn’t. The rippled eggs layer cradled a piquant, spiced trout, a generous portion of pink, flaky flesh doused in fragrant olive oil. The side salad was a refreshing complement to the mild heat of the dish.
For the toddler we ordered ‘pancakes’ (he insisted on calling it such), a Blackberry Pita French Toast with maple, chocolate drops and pecans. He quickly devoured half of it which meant I had a chance to munch on the second half. It’s quite a filling option but luscious, where the french toast sweetness is counterbalanced by the fresh berries and the crunch of the nuts.
For my husband (who would order a Full English Breakfast each and every time), the choice proved a little more tricky. He settled for Crispy Sticky Crunchy Chicken – deep fried chicken thighs, bitter orange glaze, harissa kimchi, hazelnut and sumac. A savoury, gratifying dish, perhaps carrying a little too many clashing flavours (kimchi, harissa and sumac).
We all shared a side of fiery chunky potato chips with twelve spice mix which were delicious, really easy to keep eating one after the other.
A flat white was the final touch to a fulfilling and satisfying brunch.
Had we had more space in our already full tummies I’d have loved to try one of Bala Baya’s shakshuka (with eggs, rich tomato sauce, spiced aubergine or lamb, preserved lemon and date tahani), or one of their yogurt dishes (the granola or the dip with za’atar). Or of course, have another go with their wonderful Burnt Babka, a decadent and indulgent dessert dish served with Tahini & pistachio, stewed plums, creme anglaise which I very well remember from my previous visits. But this is just another reason to come back soon!
Words and photos by Federica Carr.
Disclaimer: Federica was a guest of the restaurant. All views are her own.