My family members struggle to come to terms with the fact that I write about food. My mum handles the subject cautiously, as she used to treat my many teenage fads. “Do you still write in your spare time?”, she asks, with the same tone she’d use to enquire if I’m still into the dreadful cropped t-shirts I wore when I was fifteen. My younger cousin (raised by a food-loving, gifted father, fiercely protective of the fabulous recipes he creates) watches me take pictures of my meals with the curiosity he’d grant to an exotic animal at the zoo. “So you mean you’re a famous reviewer now? You get recognised in restaurants and all that?”. My dad just doesn’t get it. Our visit to Bah Bah’s residency at Clapham pub The King & Co threw him into a state of confusion. “If they’re only having this menu for a couple of months, why are you writing about it at all?”.
Good question, and easy answer. I’m reviewing Bah Bah‘s pop-up at The King & Co because I want as many of you to enjoy it while you have a chance. If you like Persian food, and struggle to eat it in London because of the hefty prices it often comes with, you mustn’t miss it. If money’s not your worry, you should try it just the same. It’ll only mean you can order tons of Bah Bah’s brilliant grub, and leave with an even bigger smile on your face.
The menu offers a wide range of hot and cold meze, a few mains and desserts, and daily changing specials. The meze are quite small in size; if you want to sample different dishes, get three or four of them, and pair them with sesame seed flat bread or steamed rice. That will amount to nearly a full meal, leaving enough space for dessert. If you want a sharing meal for a large group, get lots of small plates to feed everyone. We ordered nine meze for five people, which yielded smallish individual portions; everything tasted so incredibly good, I couldn’t help being hungry for more.
Our choice from the cold meze list was Borani e Bademjan: similar in concept to baba ghanoush, it’s a light spread made with yoghurt and small chunks of smoked aubergine. To the palate, it’s fresh and smoky at the same time; you’d be tempted to eat it straight from the bowl, although it goes just as well with flat bread. Speaking of which, the spinach flat bread in the hot meze menu is also remarkable: large slices of toasted bread comes with soft, warm spinach on top, seasoned with mint and a touch of garlic. Well worth a try.
If all this sounds intriguing, know that the best is yet to come. Kufteh are impossible to dislike: what’s not to love about juicy lamb and dried fruit meatballs? Sprinkled with pistachios and pomegranate seeds, Kufteh combine many of the signature ingredients in Persian cuisine, bringing out an irresistible array of flavours. I knew I’d enjoy them from the moment they landed in front of me; what I wasn’t expecting, was to come across a meze dish I’d like even more. Enter Pirashki: soft crepes with a beef filling, cooked to a turn and richly seasoned with herbs. To hell with fajitas – I don’t want to have ground beef any other way now.
The meat main, Ghormeh Sabzi (beef shin braised with roasted bone marrow, fresh herbs, kidney beans and Persian dried limes), is just the winter warmer you need to find relief from London’s freezing wintry winds. Its rich, warming sauce reminded me of the beef stews my mother used to cook in large batches when I was a kid. A befitting connection, for Bah Bah’s food is a product of cherished memories, too: chef James Nicholson’s recollections of the fragrances involved in his Iranian mother’s cooking are the main source of inspiration for his pop-up.
A slice of carrot and halva cake ended my meal on a sky-high note. Its texture was unlike anything I had before: not quite as crumbly as traditional sponge, somehow similar to the tender yet compact consistency of fudge (without its sickeningly sugary notes, though). The sweet orange peel it comes with and the sour whipped yoghurt on top even each other’s bold flavours out, creating a perfectly balanced, utterly addictive dessert: you’ll feel tempted to eat it until you feel a sugar rush kicking in – and you may need several helpings to get to that point.
No name could be more appropriate for my experience than Bah Bah: a Farsi auditory compliment for all things appealing, and most likely the way I’d describe my meal if I was any fluent in the language. Get yourself to the King & Co before 29 March, and you’ll see what I’m on about; even if Persian food’s not your thing, the pub is a lovely place to be. You will definitely find your poison among their selection of craft beers, wines and spirits, and even on a Friday night, you’ll be far enough from Clapham’s overcrowded main haunts to find a seat and have actual conversations with your mates. Tempted to pay a visit? I thought so.
Bah Bah at The King & Co
100 Clapham Park Road
London, SW4 7BZ
(nearest tube station: Clapham Common)
Residency open until Sunday 29 March 2015 (within pub kitchen hours)