It’s not often I respond to an email with a shrill screech, leaping up and scrabbling around in my overstuffed handbag for my diary in order to get a particular date in as quickly as possible before the offer dissipates into thin air. Yet this was the response to the invitation from the lovely Alexandra at Zomato to come along to Pizza Pilgrims in Soho to test out the contenders for October’s Pizza of the Month, with lots of other lovely bloggers. I’ve been a fan of Pizza Pilgrims for ages, brothers James and Thom Elliot make proper Naples-style pizzas with chewy bases and masses of topping – far preferable to the thinner Roman-style in my opinion.
Having just returned from a fabulous trip eating and drinking my way around Italy, I was delighted to be invited by Vapiano to try their fresh, made-to-order Italian in Soho with my friend Adam on an otherwise boring Tuesday evening.
Babaji is the latest venture from Alan Yau of Hakkasan and Wagamama fame, and is a departure from his usual top-notch Asian fare. Alan’s wife is Turkish so the connection is there, and Babaji aims to deliver no fuss, good quality food in the heart of the West End on Shaftesbury Ave, spitting distance from Les Mis.
Turning up on a Sunday afternoon we were faced with a queue (they don’t take bookings) which had me very close to hopping over the road to grab a Chinese instead – I don’t have any patience for queuing outside restaurants. However a very sweet and smiley waiter came and promised us it was only 15 minutes and there was a large, powerful heater on the wall so let’s give it a chance.
On being seated and going over the menu, it looked great – divided into Pide (Turkish pizza), grills and meze, we went for one pide and 4 meze dishes to share, changing a couple of times when the first 3 things we asked for weren’t available – no mention of this when being given the menus.
Karides guvec was a dish of baked prawns with peppers, tomatoes and cheese, very good. I love borek, and this one was short on filling but the filo was crispy and perfectly browned. The samphire was unexpectedly cold, but lemony and salty and went well with the other dishes.
Our third choice of pide was the Afyon – beef sucuk with kasar cheese, which was a mildly spicy beef sausage – somewhere between salami and a frankfurter, with a generous amount of cheese. Freshly baked in the huge oven, the pides are delicious. We followed up with some lethal Turkish coffees which were delicious – strong, thick and sweet, the perfect end.
Small issues in general included no sign of toilet roll in any of the cubicles, half the menu missing as mentioned and the first 20 minutes of our meal was accompanied by a medley of howling children – not their fault but it ruins the atmosphere somewhat. All in all, lovely food, sweet staff, great location and just a couple of things that I’m sure they’ll sort out. Would go back.