Bala Baya was the first restaurant I visited post lockdown after months of food fantasies and culinary yearnings.
Nestled flamboyantly within Bankside’s Union Street Arches, the restaurant was born out of Israeli born Head Chef and owner Eran Tibi’s passion for the flavoursome dishes of Tel Aviv.
Charismatic, funny and emanating with genuine warmth, Eran ensures all of his customers experience a culinary journey to remember.
Ingredients are locally sourced and of optimum quality, the service echos the warm hospitality of the Middle East and the atmosphere is buzzy yet cozy – like you’ve been invited into the home of your favourite chef.
And welcomed we were, by friendly, attentive staff and a chilled bottle of Israel wine – crisp, dry with a fresh, almost fruity finish.
Tee totalers will be pleased to hear about the refreshing “Gazoz” spritz – a non-alcoholic spritzer made with fruit syrups and served in an enticing tall glass with ice. I tried one made with ginger and was instantly enamoured.
We started our epic foodfest with pretty sharing plates. We marvelled at the silken humous adorned with roasted chickpeas, pine nuts, pickled chilis and tomato pulp. The sensuous bowl of heritage tomatoes and feta was lovingly drizzled with golden olive oil reminiscent of a thousand sun-soaked summers.
Next, a regal dish of baklava king prawns made their way to our table via a fabulous fanfare of adoration from other diners. An interesting yet pleasingly decadent creation I’d like to devour over and over again.
As is the evening couldn’t feel any more like a balmy summers evening on holiday somewhere quaint by the sea, a plate of plump grilled sardines perched on marinated watermelon slices approached us.
The fish was only lightly seared, giving the dish a light sashimi feel, whilst the watermelon was delightfully sweet, cutting through the divine saltiness of the sardines. I’ve been dealing with euphoric flashbacks ever since….
Just when I thought the evening had peaked in terms of exquisite dishes, a slow cooked braised beef shoulder muddled with exotic spices was presented to us with fresh rocket, tahini and juicy tomatoes alongside pillowy flatbreads to pleasingly stuff.
I recommend ordering this dish twice as once it is devoured a mournful yearning suddenly starts to set in. Beef lovers, heed my meaty advice.
Designed by multi-award-winning designer, Afroditi Krassa and inspired by Bauhaus architecture, Bala Baya truly plays homage to the flavours, tastes and exotic sights of eclectic Tel Aviv.
We ended our feast with a truly inimitable white chocolate cheesecake, drizzled with salted caramel sauce and adorned with banana fritters and tahini crumble.
Go with your best friends and tip generously…
Reservations at Bala Baya can be made here.