There was a time, not so long back, when I would have said that Balkonen was the best Middle Eastern food I knew. I wouldn’t say that now. And that’s not because its food has deteriorated. It’s just because the offerings in my part of the UK have much improved.
But Balkonen still provides really good value for money with its fixed mezze at €40 for two people. It’s what we always order here and, even though it’s more than 2 years since our last visit, the waiter remembered before we could say anything. Or, at least, made a really good guess at what a couple of pensioners might want to eat. They’ve kept the price at this level for several years and, with the general increases hitting the industry, we wondered what they might have had to cut back on. Well, it seems not very much. OK, they’d swapped Lebanese khobez flatbread and pittas for tortilla wraps. And, no, it’s not progress. But that seemed to be about it and the courses were as we remembered.
Dips come first. Houmous. A very smoky baba ghanoush and mohammara, slightly sweet from roasted red peppers. There’s also a fattoush salad, with a lemony dressing that could have stood more lemon.
Then a couple of hot courses. Falafel were nicely made and well seasoned. They were drizzled with yoghurt and there’s a little onion salad for crunch. Next up – a selection of fatayer – small Lebanese pasties. Really crisp pastry – one filled with spinach, another with a soft cheese and the third with spiced lamb. Then fried cauliflower – there’s a nice bitterness from the charring but it’s softened by a drizzle of yoghurt.
And, finally, chicken shawama – shreds of marinated leg. There’s more salad and more bread.
As, always, service was on the ball and we had a nice evening. We’ll be back on the next trip.