21 March 2012
11 Bermondsey Square
London, SE1 3UN
020 7407 2991
Well spring has definitely sprung hasn’t it? The days are getting warmer, the sun is out, the cherry blossom is brightening the darkest corners of the borough, and there were even some sunbathers in Camberwell Green last week, writes Oliver Pugh...
Either that or I’m hallucinating from a lack of beer. By the time you read this, it has been at least five days of denial and frankly I might as well be dead.
I’m obviously exaggerating, but this is much harder than I thought it would be. The idea was that I’d save money and that I’ve been drinking too much anyway (blame the Austrians and our shared love of schnapps, huge lagers and lederhosen), but while I’m in the bone-dry midst of it, it all seems like a pointless test of self-control, which I’m bound to fail.
Especially in this sunshine – it’s crying out for a riverside drink at the Angel! Anyway, another test was a food review. I always like to have a beer with that, or a glass of wine, or a whiskey, or a tequila....
I had plumped for Del’Aziz to stick my head into this week. Whenever I go past on the bus the freshly baked breads, cakes and meringues wink at me from the windows, so it only seemed fair to succumb to this indulgence, given that I had forsaken my regular liquid one.
Set in Bermondsey Square with its back to Tower Bridge Road, Del’Aziz is a chain but manages to carry it off with a casual charm that suggests otherwise.
The restaurant is split into a few very different areas. As you make your entrance through a red velvet curtain off the square you immediately find yourself in a formal and traditional dining area.
It looks as if this might be it, but push on through and there’s a raised and heavily cushioned snug next to the bar that would not be out of place in a production of Aladdin. Carry on walking and you’ll pass the open kitchen, a deli stacked high with squid ink spaghetti and striped lasagne sheets, and then there are some more tables and a lot of those winking cakes.
At lunch on Tuesday, it was busy with a few men eating by themselves (I was not the only one), and three or four mixed doubles. I took the chance and sat outside for the first time this year. Jacket still on, I dipped into my book (Russian gangsters, prostitutes, oil, and a British lawyer caught in the middle) and listened to the sweet sound of heavy traffic rumble past.
The menu feels very Eastern Mediterranean and Moroccan, there are lots of mezzes, tagines, stuffed peppers, and even a few kebabs (though they don’t call them kebabs.)
It took a little while for mine to come, but not so long that you’d complain about it. And when it did it was very much worth it. I had ordered, appropriately enough, the spring lamb and merguez burger, served with whipped feta, broad beans and yoghurt. The merguez, a punchy blend of red chilli or harrissa, gave the dish a nice twist and set it apart from your average lamb mince.
My only negative was that it didn’t come with chips, so you have to order a side of them (let’s face it: a burger without chips is like an evening without a beer). But as fries go, they were excellent, really excellent. Slightly crispy without being crunchy and there was a lot of them.
And happily there were no random salad leaves that so often appear next to a restaurant burger and are never, ever, ever, eaten. Stuffed, and with my book’s hero casually sauntering into some trap set by beautiful Russians, I went inside to choose some cake – the hungry hoard of hacks in the office had put me under some pressure to deliver on that front.
Competition had been hotting up after one of the editors brought in a chocolate and peppermint number made with his own fair hands, while another hack brought in a birthday cake for Muffman the Designer with her name written on it.
Not being a baker myself, I shamelessly bought into the competition with a giant strawberry and cream meringue, chocolate browny and a huge cookie for them all to gorge on. The favourite was probably the meringue and I think it has left me with the King Cake crown. So cheers Del’Aziz! All in all, this place gets a thumbs up from me and the office.
And in case you were worried about my abstention, I did have a beer, but this time it was only ginger.
Lamb burger £8.50
Ginger beer £2.95
Service charge £1.87
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