Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv.
It’s just so nice, you won’t want to leave.
Just a little poem for you there, which we’re going to suggest would be the literal incarnation of the new restaurant from ex-Ottolenghi chef Eran Tibi and popper-upper Sammy Shonn, which they describe as their very own “poem to Tel Aviv.”
Bala Baya, which roughly translates as “Bala Baya”, is snugly tucked under a Southwark railway arch that somehow opens, tardis-like, into a bright expansive space inspired by Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture; with a white counter snaking around the open kitchen and a second mezzanine level laden with palms and blush pink seating.
It’s the perfect fluid setting for a restaurant that essentially has split-personality syndrome (but in a really good way): in the mornings, it’s a grab-and-go bakery from the ground floor counter, transforming to a pita pit-stop by lunchtime that makes use of the custom-made bread oven (designed in Tel Aviv by none other than Papa Tibi) – they’ll be stuffed with slow-cooked meats and crunchy salads, like braised lamb neck fillets with quince & shaved Pecorino, or crispy chicken thighs cozied up with some harissa kimchi.
Come evening, it’s all-change again, with a more refined dinner menu featuring dishes like salt-baked blackened salmon with tahini and tomato pulp, and sod-the-diet puddings like smeared chocolate babka, or banana & pistachio cheesecake.
Drinks, meanwhile, are the domain of ex-Hawksmoor and universally-respected bartender Ali Reynolds, who’s put together a list that makes the most of the kitchen’s Mediterranean ingredients – such as the Cucumber Negroni (which comes with a feta garnish) and the Artichoke Julep. Bala Baya is also home to “London’s first Gazoz bar”, meaning they’ll be serving up house-made sparkling botanical juices.
Just a little surprise they’ve kept up their sleeve.
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv…
NOTE: Bala Baya is open Monday – Friday, 8am – 11pm, Saturday from 9am – 11pm and Sunday 10am 7pm, and reservations can be made online or by telephone.
Bala Baya | Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR
Like Middle Eastern food? Then you’ll proooobably like The Palomar. After all, it’s only one of the best restaurants in London.