Guys, I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Balham before. Or maybe, if I have been to Balham, it was many years ago. Like in 2004? 2005? I really need to get south of the river more often. But, but, but…Central London is just so very, very convenient…everything you need is RIGHT HERE. I gave a talk to a bunch of University of Connecticut students last month about living in London and what it was like and tops on my list was CONVENIENCE. Everything I need is right outside my door or just a short tube ride away or a short phone call away! Everything I want can be delivered. I can even get Amazon delivered SAME DAY. Why would you ever live anywhere else? (Now if only there was a Trader Joe’s in London, my life would be complete.)
OK, Balham, not a short tube ride, but still a fairly convenient ride for me down the Northern Line. I made the trip down south to have dinner with my “south of the river” friends Natasa and Olly. They are off the sauce which worked out well because I totally missed that Tagine is BYOB. Also, it was a Monday and who drinks on a Monday night anyhow? (Besides for British people…)
I like Tagine. I like the decor specifically. It’s beautiful. All soft Moroccan lighting and softer still scattered cushions. It makes me want to book a plane ticket to Morocco immediately so I can admire all the tilework. My dad has been itching to visit London to maybe I’ll convince him that we should hop over to Marrakech while he is in town. (It took me many years to discover that a great way to keep yourself from fighting with your parents when they visit is to KEEP THEM DISTRACTED. Go somewhere. Do something. Give them something else to focus on besides for why you never quite lived up to that graduate degree and aren’t making the millions you deserve.)
Our friendly servers suggested that we begin with an assortment of well, EVERYTHING. So we did. I tried to ignore my mother’s voice in my head, reminding me to not fill up on starters. Sorry mom, I filled up on starters. My downfall? Hummus. Always. Also heavily enjoyable? The beetroot. Known as “slata barda,” this was served with honey, cinnamon, olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I confess to eating all the Slata Barda. Sorry, Natasa and Olly. And not bad for a gal who never really used to like beetroot. Also, can we talk about how beautiful Moroccan plates are?? Another reason I want to go to Morocco…to buy all the plates.
We asked our servers for recommendations on mains and they steered us towards two lamb dishes. The first was Tagine Basla, or lamb shank with fried onion and potato. This was a a HUGELY generous portion that I got to take home with me and have for both lunch and dinner the next day. While it certainly wasn’t the most photogenic of dishes, it’ was simple and hearty and satisfying. (Although I wish I had plowed a field or run a marathon beforehand.) I’m a sucker for fried onions so this was probably my favorite dish of the evening.
Next up was “Lamb Barkouk Tagine,” slow cooked lamb shank with prunes, almonds, poached pear and sesame seeds. It was beautifully tender and the poached pear was an intriguingly delicate match to the hearty, flavorful lamb. This too was a very generous portion, and the remainder also came home with me. I ate a lot of lamb that week. A LOT of lamb.
We rounded out our festival of lamb with a slow cooked fish dish with potato and Moroccan tomato sauce. It provided a nice break from the lamb, which in hindsight, we probably ordered too much of.
At this point in the meal, we were all so full, our eyes were crossed and all conversation had ceased. No dessert, no tea. Just a slow, lamb-filled walk back to the tube station for me and a slow walk home for Natasa and Olly.
I like Tagine. I like a good neighborhood restaurant that’s different and fun. Service was sweet and attentive throughout. Also, we gave high points to the loo, which was unique and different and very beautiful, in a way that loos usually aren’t anymore. Well done, Tagine. Well done.
The Verdict: I’d recommend Tagine if you’re in the mood for something different. The restaurant is about a 3 to 4 minute walk from Balham tube, which also makes it quite convenient. BYOB will keep your costs down, although the mains — most around £15 — certainly aren’t cheap.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Tagine. As always, we tipped on the full amount.