Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Restaurant Review: Del Aziz, Clapham

The small London chain specialising in Middle Eastern deli foods and mezze options has opened a new Clapham flagship with built-in bar. Here's my review for South London Press.

The Del Aziz group has six sites across the capital, each sharing the same concept of freshly made, Middle Eastern inspired food and a style that crosses the divide between deli, cafe and restaurant.

Clapham’s vast branch is the latest opening and new flagship, adding a bar and live music venue to its credentials. In fact, there’s so many facets to the place that the decisions start in earnest before having even glanced at a menu. We choose between seats in the bright and airy deli space in the window, a darker more formal restaurant area and the exotic low-lit bar, plumping for the deli area primarily for its view of the semi-open kitchen.

A sizeable selection of dishes featuring the likes of burgers and quiches alongside more typical tagines and mezze options ensures the choice of food keeps up with the seating. What’s more, the small-dishes approach that’s bang on trend at the moment allows for a self-assembled variety platter.

A basket of assorted freshly baked breads, still warm from the oven implies good things to come as we kick-off with a few dips. Though the hummus is surprisingly lacklustre for such a key Middle Eastern dish, the traditional smoked aubergine dip baba ganoush is silken perfection, presented with a drizzle of olive oil and packed with an addictively rich chargrilled flavour.

Most of what follows is similarly impressive, with a tender, spice glazed lamb shish kebab and an oozy cheese-stuffed boreck pastry both revelling in utter freshness and vibrant flavours. Some stuffed baby squid lets the side down somewhat, being so overpowered by an admittedly rather tasty tomato sauce that you wouldn’t actually know there was any squid involved.

A hearty chicken tagine gets things back on track, boasting a succulently herb-rich gravy studded with preserved lemons for some full-on explosive citrus flavours. And there’s certainly nothing half-hearted about the accompanying wine, either – a recommended Lebanese red that punches with notes of dark fruits, berries and liquorice.

Despite generous portions and big flavours, the food is incredibly light, packed with veg and fairly healthy for a meal which undoubtedly feels like more of a blow-out than it is. Until dessert at least, which sees the restaurant’s bakery section come into full force. Having been eying up the sordid beauties sitting at the deli counter for much of the meal, it’s a relief that a caramel glazed apricot tart, some buttery pastries and a meringue-topped wedge of lemon cake are just as dirty, filthy and rich as they sound. A fitting end to a meal that has presented a bit of everything in moderation.

Del Aziz, 55-57 The Pavement, Clapham Old Town, SW4 0JQ.

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