Eastern Med, North Africa and the Middle East to India in one day

Lunch yesterday was in my old stomping ground of Fulham with a very dear school friend, Robbo. My instructions to him were that I wanted to go to a good old-fashioned English pub for proper English pub grub. I’m rather glad that he has failed in that mission and takes me instead to a place called Del’Aziz, one of a small chain (new since my time) of deli/bakery/cafés purveying a wonderful range of produce and meals from the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. It’s a warm, welcoming space with rustic wooden tables and chairs, charming staff, and such an array of colours from all the food on display. Robbo goes for the two course lunch and chooses beautiful salmon falafels with a red pepper (capsicum) dip, and char-grilled merguez sausages with couscous.

Char-grilled merguez sausages with couscous

Char-grilled merguez sausages with couscous, Del’Aziz

I am less hungry so opt for a sandwich on house-baked mixed seed bread with cumin spiced slow roast shoulder of lamb, tzatziki and salad leaves. (Just look at the shallow depth of field on this photo!) We both feel that the food is a little underseasoned, but salt flakes and ground black pepper are provided in little earthenware pots so that is soon fixed. I think it’s fair enough, with such lovely fresh food, to leave seasoning to personal taste.

Cumin spiced slow roast shoulder of lamb, tzatziki and salad leaves

Cumin spiced slow roast shoulder of lamb, tzatziki and salad leaves, Del’Aziz

In the afternoon I trek miles along the Fulham and Kings Roads browsing in the shops, and end up in Peter Jones in Sloane Square to buy socks for my poor raw feet and have a sit down in the brasserie for a cup of tea and some free Wi-Fi. Then it’s on the tube again to meet Claire, one of my very oldest friends who I’ve known since we were four, in the West End. She asks me what I feel like eating and I say I’d really like to have a proper English curry while I’m over, so we head into Soho in search of Indian. I spent practically every Friday night of my six years in London in a curry house after several beers at the pub – it holds a very special place in my heart.  And besides, they just don’t do Indian in Sydney like they do in London.

We find Gopal’s of Soho on Bateman Street and looking at the menu outside it appears to fit the bill. Inside it’s all starched white table cloths and fanned napkins and that distinctly comforting smell emanating from the kitchen – perfect! We’ve barely sat down and ordered two large bottles of Kingfisher lager and the waiter reads my mind: “Four poppadoms?” Four poppadoms duly arrive with their accompanying chutnies and pickles in the rotating metal containers I remember so well – mango chutney, hot lime pickle, finely diced red onion and tomato, and that heavenly sweet combination of yoghurt with finely chopped mint and coriander. The poppadoms, as usual, fill us up too much but you can’t not have them! To follow Claire has lamb biriani, I have a chicken jalfrezi (for old time’s sake) and we share a muter panir (soft Indian cheese and peas cooked in a mild sauce). It’s all absolutely delicious but I’m a tad disappointed that my jalfrezi is not as “very spicy hot” as the waiter warned me.

I’m absolutely gutted that I was so engrossed in the whole experience that I forgot to take any photos of the food, especially when I’m so enjoying my new lens. Those chutnies would have looked very pretty!

Del’Aziz
24 – 32 Vanston Place, Fulham, London

Gopal’s of Soho
12 Bateman Street, Soho, London

Both visited 18 June 2012

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