It used to be that vegetarian dishes were consigned to the very bottom of a menu, featuring the ever boring options of mushroom or cheese based dishes, but these days, you’d be hard pressed to come across anyone who isn’taware of the benefits of a plant-based diet, whether you dabble it only occasionally or make a conscious effort to eat more vegetables.
Tel Aviv, or actually Israel in general, is considered one of the top spots in the world to follow a vegetarian diet and with Bala Baya arriving in London, inspired by the kitchens of Tel Aviv, a bunch of us bloggers decided to meet up and experience Israeli food.
Connie, Sima, Mittal and I met for drinks and then walked down to funky Union Square for dinner! I didn’t get too many pictures of the interior, but it’s classic millennial cool. Funky lights, exposed brick work and lots of space and light including an open kitchen downstairs. They’ve let down the Instagram set though as it’s not bright enough in the evenings for some good foodie shots, so I’ll blame my photography on that rather than my lack of skill!
We ordered all the vegetarian options and sides from the menu as well as the whole seabass with fennel and for the carnivores (just Connie & I really!) we decided to try one of the meat dishes.
I’m quite firmly in the carnivore camp as a general rule but I’ll save you an awful lot of ordering trouble and tell you not to bother with the meats – I am of course basing that on just the one meaty dish that we did order, but it was flabby, greasy and entirely devoid of flavour.
But now that I’ve got rid of the bad taste in my mouth, let’s get on to the good bits, because there are so many.
Fragrant bread just asking to be dipped liberally into the hummus salsa, crunchy cauliflower and potatoes so good we ordered 2 lots! The aubergine was creamily heady and the fish was perfectly cooked and I loved the crunchy fennel on top.
It’s not for everyone (husband, I’m looking at you here), but I just love the sharing concept and the more people you go with, the merrier and I’m not just saying that because you can also order more! Everyone gets to dive their forks into the morsels they like best and since everything is intended to share, you just shout out for more when you run out.
You know what the other good part of small plates is? There’s always room for dessert because of course, you are ‘sharing’. We ordered all 3 of the desserts on the menu to divide up and an Espresso Martini… just ‘for the road’.
My terrible photo taking skills mean that you can’t even see the top left corner dessert, which is the Malabi – a sort of rose custard and not my favourite.
I liked the ‘Filthy’ best, a mashed up mess of banana compote, tahini, mascarpone with sesame crumble and luckily for me, the others fell in love with the Burnt Babka, which was another mash up of sesame, pistachio with plums and custard. There was a theme here, everything came into the category of ‘pudding’ and was all messy and fun to dig spoons into.
All in all, we had such fun at Bala Baya, the food wasn’t completely polished and I have zero recollection of the service, which suggests to me it was perfectly fine and it’s somewhere I would definitely return to with a group – but I’ll be steering them towards the green dishes, all with the side benefit of feeling terribly virtuous about all the good I’m doing for the planet.