Words: Chris Zacharia
Behind every restaurant there’s a story.
Sometimes it’s the tale of a group of cityboy investors who ‘spotted an opportunity’. Other times, it’s a ‘growing family’ of chain concepts, who are really excited about the growing popularity of brunch.
But occasionally the story behind the kitchen is that of a few mates, doing what they love best: cooking good food and serving it to their neighbourhood.
BabaBoom was founded by three friends. Not three investors, not three brand anatomists, but three pals who wanted to cook their favourite food in the way they thought best. Just look at their goofy logo.
Having gone to Istanbul to get under the skin of the humble kebab, owners Eve, Travis and Jono have brought back the boldness of Middle Eastern flavours. The menu is like an Oriental treasure chest, full of things like Egyptian Dukka (a spice blend with nuts and herbs), bergamot and Kashkaval cheese.
Described as a glorified kebab shop, BabaBoom is in fact something nicer: a communal diner where the scents and flavours of the open kitchen happily sweep over the guests. It feels convivial without being intrusive, cosy but not twee. The atmosphere has a souk-like warmth to it, blaring with music and chatter. Every table is occupied. A small queue forms outside the door and into the street.
Two cocktails kick us off: Long Afternoon Bergamot Ice Tea, fresh and rejuvenating without ever really making you sit up and take notice, and a passionfruit-flavoured frozen margarita, which entertains us while we’re waiting for some starters.
Sticky sumac wings are at that stage of tender where the slightest prod prompts the meat to slip off the bone. The treacly, coffee-coloured glaze does the sweet-savoury thing perfectly, the tangy sumac spicing up the barbecue sauce.
Next comes labneh, an enormous flatbread patterned with chargrilled patches like a patchwork quilt. Squeeze it, and you can feel how fresh and fluffy it is, the charcoal blackening your fingertips ever so slightly. Tear off a patch and scoop up the accompanying harissa and yoghurt for a complex, smoky mouthful.
Two heaping trays arrive, stacked with our kebabs. Goat belly isn’t something you’d find in your average ‘bab house, but BabaBoom make it work. It’s Cabrito goat, from former River Cottage chef James Whetlor’s farm, which is organic and high-welfare. The chunks on my flatbread are delicious: grilled on an open mangal, they’re a rich red colour and full of coarse, succulent flavour. There’s grilled aubergine, a giant red chilli and a well-dressed cabbage and onion salad, too.
They do just as well with beef: twenty eight day aged short rib is mixed with nutty Kashkaval cheese into succulent chunks of mahogany-coloured meat. Again, it’s served with an action-packed salad which soars above the sarcastic imitations usually found among the pittas. The pick of the bunch is a zesty grilled tomato dusted with savoury za’atar.
BabaBoom’s final advantage over the traditional kebab mongers comes in the form of dessert. There are only two options, but like the rest of the compact menu both are worthy of a place. A salted date caramel glory gives you a shot glass of treacly sauce of hot caramel to pour over two scoops of ice cream sprinkled with glittering shards of honeycomb.
Pomegranate and hibiscus marshmallows, a shocking pink, are deliciously chewy, further proof of BabaBoom’s creativity.
After the last ‘mallow disappears from the plate, we’re done. Like all good restaurant stories, BabaBoom’s ends with sated hunger, mouthwatering memories and a strong desire to return.
30 Battersea Rise
Tel: 07809 903181