Relaxed Dining in Balham

On a bitterly cold, February evening, we made our way from Balham station to Harrison’s restaurant and cocktail bar, which re-opened this month.  Unfortunately, we were walking in the wrong direction, but a glance at the door numbers soon made us realise our mistake, and before too long we were at our destination.  We were welcomed into a spacious, airy and yet delightfully warm space with an open kitchen and bar, and ushered into a comfortable banquette by friendly, attentive staff, who gave us time to digest the table-mat style menus, which are updated daily to include three specials.

Mary enjoyed her starter of Baby Gem, Pear, Watercress & Pomegranate Salad which she found both refreshing and warming, as the sweetness of the fruit was tempered by the zing of the house honey and mustard dressing.  Jon loved his piping hot Smoked Haddock & Slab Bacon Chowder, and found the small chunks of potato added a novel texture to the dish.

Mary chose from the menu for her main course: her Pithivier consisted of a glazed puff pastry crust stuffed with ricotta, wild mushroom and spinach, served on a bed of curly kale.  It was divine: warm comforting food which melts in the mouth in a perfectly sized portion.  Jon, having turned to the Specials menu for the Crab Meat, Chilli & Garlic Linguine was slightly disappointed to be served spaghetti instead and for it to be under-spiced.  A request for chilli oil brought a small bowl of oil and sliced chillies which helped to increase the spiciness.  The dish was pleasant enough, but failed to surpass the starter.

Neither of your reviewers are regular desert eaters, but Jon found the prospect of Salted Caramel ice cream too good to pass up, and, along with the Chocolate Fondant (with sprinklings of toasted pistachios) which accompanied it, it was.  Mary’s Strawberry Ice Cream was bursting with fruit, thirst quenching and creamy, and it certainly says something for the warm atmosphere of the restaurant that we were both ready for something cooler on such a cold evening.

After our meal, our charming hostess Agatha showed us around the rest of the space, which includes an elegant private dining room, seating 14 with comfort, as well as a cosy basement cocktail bar (closed Sundays and Mondays).

Overall, Harrison’s is well-designed, with good food (the menu would benefit from a couple more vegetarian choices, but what there was was delicious); affable, solicitous staff and a cosy, relaxed atmosphere.  If you live in the area, or even if you don’t, I recommend paying them a visit to see for yourself!

For more information, or to make a booking, visit http://www.harrisonsbalham.co.uk/.

Mary Tynan and Jon Axford

The Lime Cafe, Haringey

Being a veteran of Haringey’s famous Cafe Lemon (I was Morcilla’s mysterious dining companion), I decided to boldly go and sample the delights of the next door establishment, which has recently changed its name to The Lime Cafe, from its previous, more Italian-sounding appellation Mambocino. On first glance, it appeared as if the decor had also been completely altered, but no, the sublime fountain was still there, featuring a mermaid accompanied by dolphins and fish in variegated tones of blue and pink, and the magnificent glass dolphin sculpture had merely been moved to the top of the fridge. The nautical theme was continued with anchors and other ship parts hanging from the walls, although alas no sea shanties were to be heard, but only the ubiquitous sound of Turkish pop.

Having just spent two hours in the doctor’s waiting room, I was in the mood to have my taste buds tingled, so I ordered the vegetarian set breakfast number 1, accompanied by a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee was first to arrive, and was, I am pleased to say, not instant. The orange juice was indeed freshly squeezed, and, whilst the toast was slightly on the dry side, the tomato and mushrooms were done to perfection, and the beans were not touching the (single) egg. The bubble and squeak was a bright green colour (presumably to match the waiting staff’s shirts) due to the inclusion of marrowfat peas in the mix, and rounded off this epicurean delight in a satisfying way.

Pleasantly full, I left a tip and went in search of more citrus-themed restaurants, but have so far been unsuccessful in my search.

Heidi Sausage

(Previously published in both the London Review of Breakfasts and the London Evening Standard)