Ali Baba
32 Ivor Place
St John’s Wood
Westminster NW1 6DA
I have very little time and very little to say this week. Sorry! Just: if you think London is covered with Egyptian restaurants you are wrong! Millions of Lebanese and Middle Eastern, but Egyptian are not so popular. In fact Ali Baba is the only one we managed to find. It’s ugly, it’s sad, it’s not welcoming – let’s face it! Looks like a retirement house’s waiting room and the zimmerframe of the Spring Chicken at the table next to ours confirmed my feelings! Anyway, small menu but authentic. Had the usual lamb, yogurt salad, hummus & co. The only “unusual” dish was a sort of flat bread stuffed with mince. Nice. Everything tasted good, but less good once home… Basically spent all night burping the well-disguised garlic. What else? Owner was nice, the bill small, no plastic accepted and no cash machine in the neighbourhood! That’s it! Oh, forgot to say I won’t go back!

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 1.5
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 2
  • Overall: 1.88
What can I say of this one… there were shards of excellence – yes, excellence – but overall I really didn’t sleep well that night.

Let’s start from the start. There are a million Middle Eastern restaurants in London but only one calls itself genuinely Egyptian. That’s the one we went to. We got off the taxi, had a look at the place, and I wanted to leave. It just looks like a takeaway from the outside. Thanks to the adamant willpower and determination of my other half, I was dragged in. It is a takeaway, with a dining room in the back which looks like a hospital canteen. The hospital feeling was enhanced by the fact the only other patrons were a table of four quite elderly ladies, one of whom had parked her zimmerframe by her chair.

The owner was very kind and friendly. Service was fast, efficient, effective. I really liked the guy.
We had quite a lot to eat. Started with a version of babaganuj containing more tahini than usual, it had a special name. It was delicious, although too much garlic (remember this comment for later). We continued with a sort of tzatziki with chopped cucumber, which was excellent and really refreshing, although way too much garlic (remember this, too).

First main was a lamb shank which I am sure had come from heaven. It was tender, juicy, tasty, perfect. It was a dish, presentation aside, worthy of a major restaurant. Second main were a sort of pitta slices with ground meat in the middle – these were OK, not great.

Price was £35 all in, which seemed very good value for money. They don’t take cards so I had to walk half a mile to a cashpoint by Baker Street tube, then get a cab back to pay, pick up the wife and bugger off to Home House.

What happened after the meal was not good. I wasn’t sick or anything: I just smelled of garlic, I smelled garlic, I tasted garlic. For 24 hours. It was revolting. The starters were way too loaded and the effect just didn’t go away; it was far worse than expected. I could not sleep because of the smell and the taste in my mouth, I kept drinking water, wine, anything to make it go away. It was a horrible night followed by a day of discomfort: only after dinner on Sunday did I stop smelling it. This sadly affects my food score dramatically.

  • Food: 2
  • Ambience: 1
  • Service: 3
  • Value: 3
  • Overall: 2.25