Ayoush, a North African restaurant and cocktail bar just a short walk from Bond Street station, has a menu filled with classic Moroccan dishes; lamb tagines with apricots & cinnamon, falafel with hummus & baba gannough, chicken cous cous with caramalised raisins and onions, and homemade baklava. On a balmy Thursday evening, we headed down to see if the restaurant lived up to its colourful menu.
We entered the restaurant and were led downstairs to the cave-like basement, with booths lining the walls, tea lights flickering on the dark wood tables and the scent of shisha from upstairs filling the air. Ayoush has a certain theatricality about it, and this is continued through to the cocktail menu. The Genie Wizz Fizz (pine tree gin, champagne reduction, orange blossom flavoured cream, egg white, vanilla sea salt and walnut oil) arrived at the table in a ceramic pot, which on lifting the lid produced a little puff of smoke; Aladdin eat your heart out. My companion’s Le Grog Du Journal (rum blend with stout reduction, ginger beer, sweetened lime and vanilla extract) came in a beer bottled concealed within a wrap of newspaper. This was a bit more man-on-a-street-corner than prince-of-thieves, but the cocktail was sweet and refreshing, and like the Genie Wizz Fizz, didn’t take itself too seriously.
To accompany our cocktails we went for the Mezze Selection (freshly made flatbreads, butternut hummus, zalouk, baba gannough, labnah, falafel and chicken cigar pastry). Being somewhat of a hummus fiend, I was excited to try out this butternut incarnation, but it was actually the zalouk which I kept going back for; a cooked salad make with tomatoes, aubergines, garlic olive oil and spices. The zalouk was fresh, tangy and subtly spicy and tasted great spread on the flatbread, wrapped around the crunchy falafel.
For mains, we tried out the classic lamb tagine with cous cous. The slow cooked lamb fell off the bone, and the authentic addition of prunes, apricots and cinnamon made for an indulgent, flavoursome dish. In a moment of madness at the beginning of the meal we had also ordered a side of the Roasted ‘Prune’ Potatoes (a classic case of eyes-bigger-than-stomach). These were crunchy, new potatoes served with a sticky prune dip, and although delicious, were maybe a side too far. Warning: the portions at Ayoush are generous and not for the faint hearted, sharing is definitely the way forward.
Somehow we managed to leave room for the dessert, sharing some homemade baklava with crushed pistachios and vanilla ice cream. The light, crispy pastry and sticky sweet centre of the baklava went wonderfully with the crunchy pistachios, and left me wishing I’d left a little more room for dessert.
58 James St
020 7935 9839