I’ve walked past this cafe/bakery in Fulham a number of times and thought yum, those cakes look good. However the chances of me stopping for said cakes are, ordinarily, slim to none. I’m usually walking pretty fast so as to spend as little time as possible time in the area.
But the other day I was walking a bit slower (maybe even “pottering” as my Parents would say) and I decided to bite the bullet and try something. Del’Aziz does, after all, seem perennially busy; and the huge display of cakes, pastries, pies and meringues in the window are as inviting (though maybe not quite as refined) as any Ottolenghi shop front.
The busyness of the cafe itself stressed me out, so I took a table in the cobbled street outside. This should be a nice space, but it suffers from the fact that it must get only 10 minutes of direct sun light each day.
My piece of banana and walnut cake was huge. Sorry, let me re-phrase that. It was f*cking massive.
To be honest, I was a bit taken aback. Whilst I felt it was cracking value at £3.95, I could happily have been served a slice half the size (and been even happier if I was charged a pro rata’d £1.47 and a half pence for that). I think it’s the first time I’ve been defeated by a cake. In my defence, it wasn’t actually that tasty. Perfectly reasonable, but not much flavour.
Whilst sitting outside (slowly attempting to plough through the cake) I noticed for the first time that Del’Aziz has a restaurant section as well as a cafe/force feeding arena. Whereas the cafe is an all day brunch/lunch kind of place, the restaurant serves fringe Mediterranean and Levantine kind of food – mezze, tagines, kebabs, that sort of thing.
By coincidence, a friend of mine organised a group meal there a few days after my cake trip.
It seems that, whilst the food in the restaurant is slightly different to the cafe/bakery, there are common themes: decent value; massive portions; underwhelming flavour. One of my friends summed the restaurant up perfectly as a “just about 6 out of 10″ kind of place.
We had a 3 course set price (£19.50) meal. This involved a choosing 2 Mezze dishes to start; a main such as chicken tagine, Persian lamb ‘Bamie’ or chicken kebab; and either a chocolate sponge, apple tart or plate of baklava for afters.
We could probably have shared about half the quantity of the Mezze dishes that came to the table. The red pepper and walnut pure[e] [sic] was ok, if a little salty, and the mirza ghassemi was quite nice – walm smoked aubergine, tomato and very garlicy dip (the internet suggests there might, classically, be some egg in there as well). Not everyone liked it though.
Definite failures included the grilled halloumi (imagine eating an eraser that’s been sitting in a brine bath for a bit (I should caveat this by saying I generally think halloumi is pretty rank)) and the salmon falafal which I felt lacked salmon, was (again) overly salty, and (I could easily be wrong about this) might’ve been purchased by the restaurant in big frozen bags.
The mains all looked pretty good when they came out. All large portions (obviously) and well presented; but I don’t think any really delivered.
A lamb ‘Bamie’, btw, is effectively lamb shank. I sneaked a taste from someone else. Pretty good. But salty. Saffron spiced chicken shish looked smart – I have no idea what the kebab tasted like or whether it was cooked well, but I recall the person eating it saying that they enjoyed it. Lots of people ordered the chicken tagine with onion confit, carrots and green olives. Again, I didn’t try it, but it looked ok and was served in a proper tagine; I hope suggests they were cooked in them too. That said, the guy who gave the place 6 out of 10 ate this, so I doubt the dish was awesome.
I had calves livers, sweet potato puree (or more worryingly “sweat potato”, if the menu was to believed) and green beans. This was presented really nicely, actually, on a wooden board (the chargrilled brown meat, orange and green sides looking very pretty together) and the veg was cooked very well (by which, I mean, spot on, rather than overdone). The livers were large and numerous (obviously), but once again a bit too much salt. More off-puttingly, they were cooked to varying levels; some pieces being underdone at one end, overdone at the other. A minging bit of sinew on one of them too.
Which takes us to the desserts; though I think you know, already, that these were large, looked good, but weren’t particularly tasty. My baklava were pretty average considering what you can pick up in shops these days (whether from Iranian shops in Olympia, Turkish shops in Newington Green, or M&S). I’m not sure I saw many clean dessert plates – a combination, like my first experience of Del’Aziz, of being defeated by size and underwhelmed by the taste.
Look, I reckon the place is ok. It was comfortable (apart from an awkward 20 minutes of belly dancing) and a good place for a large group of people to eat. But I won’t be rushing back to the restaurant.
The cafe, on the other hand, I may give another go. People always seem to be enjoying their brunches and lunches and I suspect this is what Del’Aziz was intended for.
Del’Aziz in 3 words
F*cking massive cakes
In the cafe, a coffee and a large cake, pie or other dessert will set you back about £6-£7. I didn’t look to see how much other dishes are.
In the restaurant, the set price 3 course menu is £19.50. They also do pasta dishes for about £10, grilled fish and steaks between £15-£20.
www.delaziz.co.uk – 24 Vanston Place, London, SW6 1AX – 020 7386 0086