A meal at Bala Baya, Southwark
Bala Baya is a bakery in the morning, a fast paced pitta kiosk with a sit down mezzanine at lunch and a buzzy street level restaurant at night.
A few days before giving birth, myself, @bmcboy and Amber had one of our last few evenings out for a while and went for dinner in recently opened Bala Baya in the Union Street Arches, right next door to our regular meat haunt Macellaio RC. We had high expectations having heard great things from friends and contacts, but unfortunately, while the food was very good, we had some issues with timings. Hormones or not, it was only their second week but I made sure the restaurant knew about it in my typical grumpy old woman fashion, yet they took it very professionally. They apologised and explained the cause of the issues we had experienced and invited us, the 3 of us, to come back soon.
Fast forward three months, I really wanted to come back to Bala Baya and almost made it a point to make it one of our first outings as a family of 4. Despite the time elapsed, manager Tomer was very patient and accommodated my many attempts to arrange a meal so we finally were able to come back on a sunny April day, for an early lunch… pram and pooch in tow.
For lunch, they have what I think is a very good deal: £20 per person for dip and pittas, one or two savoury dishes (in alternative a dessert) and a salad, as well as a soft drink called gazoz (reminded me of our italian gassosa).
The pitta arrived warm and really soft and light with a yogurt and spicy harissa dip. On our earlier visit we had also tried the humous which I remember being very good and a generous portion. To drink, I had an apple & rhubarb gazoz while bmcboy chose the thyme & grapefruit variety.
My starter followed quickly, and I thought it was really special: beautifully Spring cured salmon with rhubarb, preserved lemon & dill jelly. Full of contrasting textures and deep flavours, but also very light. Of course the two savoury dishes the husband chose were meaty: Chicken, bitter orange, harissa, butternut squash puree on a bed of kimchi was also a great balance of textures, and colours too. He really enjoyed it and so did I, particularly the addition of the pickled layer. He then had Beef & Onion which we had tried before, and was once again a very pleasant dish with melt in the mouth braised beef shoulder, tahini, crisped onions and herbs.
We picked a salad each so we could try both: Israeli salad with feta was a refreshing, simple salad of tomatoes, cucumber, onions and crumbed feta, while the Jewelled rice salad was a flavoursome, more complex dish with sultanas and herbs, and perhaps a tad too much olive oil.
We could not leave without trying their Burnt babka dessert (which we shared). I had to restrain myself from polishing it all off while @bmcboy was on nappy duties, it was absolutely delicious. The slice of babka was paired with hazelnut and chocolate spread and garnished by caramelised crumbed pecans, stewed plums and a whisked anglaise. We both loved it.
Overall, a very satisfying meal at Bala Baya, with rich, creative dishes using Mediterranean ingredients. The service was friendly, quick and of course, I am once again grateful for allowing us to bring our well behaved Amber with us as well as a baby in a pram. Like next door Macellaio, being so close to places like these make going out for a meal much more pleasant. Our plan now is to come back for brunch soon.
On this second occasion we were guests of Bala Baya but I was not asked to write this post; opinions are my own.