As a seasoned bruncher, there are many places that I have enjoyed but wouldn't be in any rush to return. Bala Baya does not fall into that category.
Bala Baya is a Tel Aviv inspired bakery-cum-mezzanine-cum-restaurant under the arches in Southwark. It is fairly new, opening its doors in 2017 but that hasn't stopped it making an impact. Bala Baya was recently named as one of the 30 best brunches in UK by The Telegraph. It is light and airy, pared back and hip, with disco tunes playing on a Saturday morning to keep you on the right side of bed.
There are a range of Middle Eastern small plates for the table to share including hummus and chickpeas, grilled beets and harissa butternut squash with maple. If I hadn't have had my eye on the burnt babka pudding for dessert I would have happily sampled but I was keen to keep some space left.
The offerings are colourful and diverse and it is always refreshing to a brunch menu sans avocado. My friend and I opted for the shakshuka and steak & eggs to share between us.
The shakshuka, with lamb merguez meatballs had a deliciously rich and creamy tomato sauce and with a lemon and date tahini.
The steak and eggs, was a Middle Eastern, progressive take on the classic and was one (of many) standouts. Sticky date beef, which was mouth-wateringly tender, came with roasted new potatos and a delicious harissa hollondaise over a chilli-specked fried egg.
A quick word on the bread. I must confess that I am exposed, normally, to supermarket pitta - if it can even be called that - and so am woefully inexperienced at eating the proper stuff. This pitta, which looked more like a flatbread, was soft and fluffy, still warm from the oven and far more than a vessel for the shakshuka it accompanied. I would go back alone just for some more.
Dessert, or specifically the burnt babka pudding, was the thing I'd been looking forward to most. I'm a babka enthusiast and had heard considerable online buzz about this pudding. The babka is smeared with chocolate and hazelnut spread and sits amongst stewed plums and whisked anglaise which was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. It tasted heavenly, the soft plums against the crunchy nuts, the rich chocolate against the feathery-light anglaise and in the process I discovered my new happy place.
The service wasn't the quickest but we weren't in a hurry and the place was bustling. Despite this I would go back in a flash.