Not every restaurant in the Old Smoke can claim to reside on top of medieval and Roman ruins, an 18th-century burial ground and an Abbey that once rivaled Westminster’s. Del’Aziz is tucked away in the corner of a smart seven-year-old development that was once occupied by Bermondsey Abbey.
Any eatery in proximity to hipster hangout Bermondsey Street has to be worth their weight in black habits. The trendy-Wendy haunt is lined with uber-cool coffee-houses, contemporary cocktail bars, and bustling bistros, most of which have standards as high as St Mary Magdalen church’s steeple.
You can see why Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Del’Aziz have given themselves quite a substantial nip-and-tuck to keep up with the ever-growing destination boulevard.
Del’Aziz’s boasts a bar, bakery, and restaurant, which is where we were seated. The dining area is a mix of turquoise walls, an empire-style chandelier in line with boutique five-armed crystal-drop chandeliers, pink, patent, plastic pillars and lime green chairs. Had we side stepped into a GymBox spin studio or Jane Fonda’s boudoir circa 1983? An identity is missing.
We were chuffed the place wasn’t chocker as the tables either side of us would have learnt a thing of two about girthy u-bends. My dining compadre’s home bathroom refurb was a hot topic. A wee bit more space between tables would be nice.
On recommendation, we kicked proceedings off with a couple of mojitos. When the drinkies arrived we were informed not to stir in the dark rum head thus giving us something to look forward to on the last few slurps. Not overpowered by mint, with enough lime to balance the sugar – the rum top worked.
To get a sense of the full Middle East experience a mezze platter for two seemed appropriate. Hummus – sesame-esque with a good consistency. Tzatziki – understated and fresh. Lamb boreck – a clear winner on the board – sweet, cumin-laced lamb wrapped in a crisp and oily filo pastry, the best roll we’d had in a while. Meatballs in a tomato sauce – more flavour in a Bic biro lid – bland. And merguez sausages – heavily packed with chili pepper and harissa shadowing the cumin but a decent banger all the same.
To accompany the main our waiter lead us in the direction of Northern Italy with a bottle of Poderosa Monte Santu Il Vino Del Pane 2010. Good choice – dry, full-bodied and energetic with light tannin – a chic racy number.
For our mains: for me, grilled lamb steak, ‘imam bayildi’ aubergines. The steak was beautifully seared and tender. The gamey flavours were enhanced by onions, garlic, and figs permeating from the aubergines. And for my chum, chicken tagine, preserved lemons, carrot confit, olives and steamed couscous. As soon as the terracotta lid was lifted the citrus aromas could have unblocked the nastiest of bunged up honkers. Sadly, that’s where the excitement ended. The olives were limp and the chicken was cumbersome – it was like eating a Korma without the cream – now where’s the fun in that?
Del’Aziz’s team are polite, chirpy and well suited to the Bermo-contempo borough.
The bar area lacked any intimate nooks or segregated sections. But what the bar didn’t have in cosy alcoves it made up for in history. You can still see remains of the Benedictine monastery through the glass tiled floor – worth a butchers.
To choose your pud you have to walk through the restaurant, past the loos, bar, and kitchen to the ‘bakery’ and choose your bake. This did not please my dining chum – the last time he walked past a kitchen was in Kensington Olympia at Grand Designs Live – he knows there’s one in his house because he overheard the chamber maid make reference to a room with an Aga. A pudding menu might well be in order.
We shared a pink choc meringue and a blueberry crumb cake. The white with pink swirled meringue would have been better suited as headpiece or bulbous fascinator for Sydney Mardi Gras – maybe that’s where it came from? It was as dry as a cracked heel and missing the chocolate. The cake shared the same attributes and not a berry in sight – they must have caught the same flight.
A meal for two won’t blow all ya spendies, not all the cakes are wearable and hanging with the Bermo-bohems ain’t such a drag. Let’s just hope that Del’A hasn’t lost her zizzzzzzz.
REVIEWED BY: Thabian Sutherland
ADDRESS: Del’Aziz, 11 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
TELEPHONE: 020 7407 2991
Price Rating: £££ (Explained)
Star Rating: ★★★ (Explained)
Tipping Policy: 12.5% discretionary tip will be added to your bill.
I’ve lived in the Old Smoke since 1999 with a career in fashion, fitness and events. I discovered the joys of writing beginning of 2014. Since then I’ve been tapping digits to keys. Subjects include food, theatre, exhibitions, London life and other topics that tickle my taste-buds. Other publications include Timeout, Gay Times and So So Gay Magazine.