I’ve never been to Balham before. It’s south and in Zone 3, so my only experience with it is either passing through on a train to the south coast from Victoria, or reading/crying about it in Atonement when Cecilia dies in the bombing and subsequent flooding of the station in WWII. But my friend Jordan and his lovely fiance, Emily, had their engagement party there since they live near-ish.
Their party was at The Exhibit, which is a very large bar/restaurant. Knowing, however, that I would probably be starving at some point, and the restaurant at Exhibit didn’t look terribly exciting, I checked out the other goods, and stumbled across Tagine, a Moroccan restaurant not far away.
Now, I’ve been on a bit of a Moroccan kick lately, namely in the form of Waitrose’s Moroccan chicken soup (it’s delicious, you really ought to try it), so it seemed only fitting that I should go and have the real thing.
Leif and I arrived for a late dinner after the engagement party, I think about 10:30 or 11. I wasn’t sure if they would be snooty about serving us that late or even let us in, but the place was hopping.
In Moroccan style, we were seated at a very low table in the middle of the floor. This was perfectly comfy for a shorty such as myself, but Leif being 6’5″ looked like a grown-up sitting at the kids’ table at a wedding. Poor guy. Our server immediately recognised this, and offered a taller table by the bar, as soon as it was available. In the meantime, we ordered and had our wine opened (Tagine is BYOB with no corkage fee, which is brilliant. I seriously love that)
We started with the Merguez Meshwi (spicy lamb sausages) and houmous with pita (their spelling, not mine)
The sausages were absolutely delicious. Very nice and crispy, almost chorizo-like in terms of robust flavour and spiciness. Houmous was equally as flawless with a very mild olive oil and nice chunks of whole chickpeas still in the puree. Even if it’s not, that always gives the impression of homemade. Pita bread was warm and slightly crispy as well. Gorgeous.
For my main, I went with the Couscous Zizzou:
Couscous, lamb shank that effortlessly fell off the bone, lamb kebab and more sausages, served with chickpeas, raisins and a bouillon sauce on the side.
I swear, I don’t think I even said anything for the first five minutes of eating this dish. It was truly the definition of om nom nom. It was huge though, so much so that I couldn’t finish it all. It didn’t go to waste though, I had a very hungry boy who happily snapped up the rest. I was gutted I couldn’t take another bite.
Our other main at the table was the Fish Tagine:
This was a traditional whitefish served with a very mild sauce I can’t recall over Middle Eastern Couscous. I sort of have this obsession with Middle Eastern Couscous. I haven’t really been able to find it here in raw form in any shops. Sainsbury’s has this side dish of it with chili oil, chickpeas and feta, but if I want an uncooked version to do with as I please, I have to bring it from America. Right now in my pantry, I have a giant stash from my last trip to a Whole Foods in Michigan. However, even with the yummy couscous, this dish though seemed bland in comparison to what I had. It was nice, but not anything to write home about. I only had a bite, but I’m ok with that – I really needed to concentrate on mine.
So, basically we had one dish that wasn’t near perfection. Pretty good odds, if you ask me. The whole thing was pretty cheap too, considering – £38 for two, not including the wine we brought. Screw Zone 3, for this restaurant, I’d travel to Zone 6.