A sense of relief prevails as you duck out of the rain-drenched streets of Leicester Square and are immediately transported into a glittering and exotic underworld. The restaurant is almost invisible, crammed next to the famed restaurant, The Ivy, and painted a charcoal grey which works as a convincing camouflage against the damp London streets.
Souk Bazaar is one of two North African themed restaurants (the other named Souk Medina) set in an excellent location in the heart of the bustling West End. Souk Bazaar has been running for 11 years and has won many awards and stunning reviews for their inspirational ambience and tasty food.
Flickering candles line the way from the narrow entrance down the stone steps to the main restaurant, which is a maze of dimly lit rooms with low ceilings and winding paths, the walls adorned with countless colourful lanterns and the floors laden with brass shisha pipes. You are coiled further still into this mysterious world by the swirling Moroccan music and smoky smell of dozens of candles and burning incense.
Our party of six were seated in a low lit corner in one of the rooms, there were no other diners present for the majority of the evening, giving us a cosy feeling of intimacy and privacy. Our seats were low sunken sofas scattered with plump cushions, and the large metal tables that our food was laid upon were surrounded by little decorated poufs, giving our dining experience a real authentic Moroccan feel.
Our menu consisted of a three course mezze feast for a price of £19.95 per person, with authentic homemade starters, main courses of sweet tender meats infused with intoxicating spices and wickedly indulgent syrupy desserts, by my book a well thought out trio and a great way to taste all the different flavours of Morocco. What was also great was that you could request as many refills of the dishes as you liked, on the conditions that your whole party ordered the mezze.
Our starter was a platter of home-made humous served with warm pitta bread, mini spicy lamb sausages with potato cubes, and stuffed vine leaves. The humous was especially sought after, it had a tasty sprinkle of Moroccan spice on top giving an extra little kick to the dish. The stuffed vine leaves were surprisingly sour and weren’t very appetising at all.
The main course of tangine of lamb was a big hit with our party, it was slow cooked so very tender and had a real melt-in-the-mouth nature to it, soaked in the juice of prunes and topped with roasted almonds, it was a very sweet dish. Another dish that was a big hit was the tangine of spinach, feta cheese and roast onion which complimented the sweetness of the lamb very well with the sharpness of the feta cheese.
We drank to our hearts content, perhaps something to do with the unwinding nature of the atmosphere, and we ordered a wide variety of the tempting beverages on offer. The cocktails were given names such as ‘Juicy Marrakesh’ , ‘Flying Carpet’ and ‘Thirsty Camel’ and were rum or vodka based, mixed mainly with fresh mango and coconut milk. One of our party sampled a Khaymer Martini, a mix of Moroccan vodka and apple juice, shaken over ice.
Our desert was a selection of baklava; it is made from pastry, chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The baklava was served to us with fresh mint tea, and was a lovely light accompaniment to a very sweet dish.
Although the service was far from attentive, the immaculate design and buzzing atmosphere of Souk Bazaar won us over. We had an early dinner, but from 10pm the restaurant also features live entertainment of various belly dancers which works to kick the mood up a notch. Our bill came to £35 per person, but our choice of expensive beverages made up a lot of this.
Swept so swiftly into the mystical world of Morocco and transported into a dusky tavern on the outskirts of Marrakesh, we arrived somewhat disappointed back on the grey pavements of London, looking back on the sultry and enchanting cavern we left behind. With the recession so prevalent in people’s minds, Souk Bazaar is an inspired and charming place to experience the exuberance of North African cuisine and culture without ever having to leave the country.
Anna Zuchowski-Morrison – London Gekko Spotter