I was pretty excited to review Zala, the new Middle Eastern restaurant that’s just opened in Camden. Since travelling around in the Middle East, Levantine cuisine has quickly taken the top spot of my favourite cuisine, and with the wealth of talent in London, another new restaurant is very welcomed!
Headed by Tomer Niv, formerly of R’amas Kitchen in Jerusalem, this small converted space specialises in meze, Levantine pizzas (a beautiful woodfire oven sits outside with row of outdoor counter seats), and grilled meats.
It’s a small space (it seats 38 covers), but it’s lofty and airy, with seating split between the ground floor and the mezzanine. Skylights allow for bright light and sunshine, so it’s a really nice welcoming space.
All meals come with complimentary meze: fresh baked pita bed and 8 seasonal meze, which consisted of roast cauliflower, beetroot salad, baba ganoush, tahini, hummus to name a few. The pita was served in warm, soft, but crispy from just being baked.
My friend and I ordered a main each, but our friendly server suggested that we also order a pizza or pita to share. I guess if you were quite hungry, that would be advisable, but the generous portions of the mains would easily satisfy someone for an evening meal.
We started off with the Jerusalem Chicken pita (£9) to share. Sadly, it just wasn’t great. What it lacked in seasoning, it made up with yoghurt sauce.
My whole Grilled Sea Bream (£16) arrived on a wooden board, cooked to perfectly, still juicy inside. But the pesto sauce drizzled on the fish completely baffled me. The menu said herbs, I had no idea it would be pesto. It was delicious nonetheless, but I can’t say I’ve come across any pesto during my travels. And sadly, there were no tomatoes as described in the menu. Minor detail, I know.
My friend’s Slow Roast Lamb (£14), unfortunately, was also a bit lacklustre. Chunks of lamb sat atop a pita bread that was smothered in sauces, but surely it would made more sense to smother the meat with sauce, as it was just really dry. Again, it lacked flavour and needed a lot more seasoning.
At this point, our wonderful server brought to us a Fruit Salad, a dessert that will soon be added to the menu. He also brought us a cocktail, made of arak, a spirit made of anise seeds, which will also be added to the menu soon.
All in all, the staff were courteous and helpful, the space is lovely, and I’m sure it’ll be bursting with the Camden tourist crowds, but sadly, unless the food suddenly drastically changes, I won’t be coming back. Not when there is so much great Levantine food on offer across the city.
Details: Zala – Camden Market, Camden Lock Place, Unit 39, London NW1 8AL. www.zalagrill.com