Well, Israeli food is having a bit of a moment in London. Ottolenghi probably put it on the food map in London, but restaurants like Palomar, the Barbary and Honey & Co have also really helped, and are some of my favourite restaurants in the city.
And now Bala Baya opens it doors (OK, well three months ago), under the arches in Southwark. It’s main focus is food from Tel Aviv, so traditional Israeli food but with a modern twist. I took Rob there for his birthday in March, and then returned for a press night of the Israeli Tourist Board last week. Both times the food blew me away. From more traditional dishes like the home made, just baked pitta bread and amazing roasted cauliflower with yoghurt to the fish tartar with sumac, it was all completely delicious. Apparently the aubergine with milk is well worth trying too, so don’t be put off by the name.
On the press night our favourite dish was the salmon with peppers, as were their seared tuna bites. But their puddings were incredible too: they served a cheesecake and a panna cotta-esque pudding with Malibu. Perhaps because Tel Aviv is on the coast they serve more fish here than they might at a more mainstream Israeli restaurant.
Ask for a table upstairs, unless you want to sit by the bar downstairs (which is perhaps a bit more upbeat). The setting itself is very cool, reminding me a little of Bethnal Green’s Mission E2. A mixture of its exposed red brick arch, with modern furniture and greenery, means it’s en trend.
And while it’s location is a little off the beaten path, the Old Union Yard Arches are cool, with wine bar and Italian restaurant Macellaio next door worth a visit too. Or, if you fancy something different, Polish/Russian/Hungarian restaurant and bar Baltic is around the corner, with stunning minimalist interiors and good food & drinks.
Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches
220 Union Street
Photo credit: Bala Baya (apart from the salmon, which is one of my instagram photos)