24 Vanston Place,
As Maria from The Sound of Music says: “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.” I am compelled, however, to throw caution to Maria’s sound guidance and begin with the end of the meal: the coconut ice-cream.
My greatest regret was that I did not order the coconut ice-cream. My greatest pleasure was that my guest (a more shrewd decision-maker when it comes to desserts) was too full to finish hers, allowing me not one, not two, but three blissful spoonfuls of this tropical snowball, that could have been scooped from the centre of some otherworldly Arctic-coconut. It was love at first lick, and I have been dreaming of it ever since.
Del Aziz in Fulham is always busy, with people sitting out on the terrace pouring tea from Moroccan teapots, and people inside enjoying everything from healthy smoothies and granola, to Eastern Mediterranean feasts. Having only been to the light and bustling deli that forms the right hand side of Del Aziz before, we were intrigued to be led through to the dark and mysterious *other *side, which, with its black awnings, has the less appealing exterior.
Inside, however, it is quite another story. We sauntered in, clad in pale summer colours and wished at once that we’d been wearing something brighter so as not to be outdone by the luxurious magenta and terracotta walls. I was glad at least that I had decided to wear such a lot of gold jewellery; it would have been a shame to have been out-done by the ornately patterned gold satin chairs too. In short, it is a beautiful interior, juxtaposing the colours of a North African market and the streamlined chic feel of a city restaurant.
The dinner menu at Del Aziz is simple enough. There is mezze, followed by mains, followed by sweets, and all this is flanked by a lengthy cocktail list at the front of the menu, and a lengthier wine list at the back. Their wine list is one of the most diverse I’ve seen, with Moroccan and Labanese wines promising flavours of apricots and cinnamon. We had a very drinkable, if less exotic, Italian Guerrouane Blanc.
We shared mezze starters; Izmir Kafta in a cinnamonny tomato sauce; Israeli couscous, like a plate of pearls yellowed with saffron; and baba ganoush, which was presented beautifully with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. For the main, I had chicken tagine with a sauce of olives and preserved lemons. The sauce was delicious, although it could have done with more sauce and less chicken as the chicken was a little on the dry side and would have been the perfect vessel for an abundance of sauce. My guest had lamb shank with lady fingers. The lamb lived up to cliché, and fell off the bone at the slightest nudge.
And then came the dessert. I had baklava, and it was delicious. I can only really fault it for not being coconut ice-cream. Ah, the cocnut ice-cream… No gelato, even if fed to me by a smouldering, Vespa-riding Italian stallion will ever match up. I fear I have been ineradicably ruined for other ice-creams.
There is much to recommend about Del Aziz. Go there, and whatever you do, leave room for dessert.
Del Aziz branches are located in Fulham, Swiss Cottage, Bermondsey, Westfield, and Bankside. They offer *three courses for £19.95* in the evenings, with deals on wine at the beginning of the week. To find out more about their dinner menu, and other menus throughout the day, visit the Del Aziz website.
**Written by:** Emily Boyd