This might come as a surprise, but I travel by bus to work. It makes my journey longer but the positives far outweigh the negatives; great for people watching, always a seat available (although not when there’s a tube strike) but most importantly, a view of any new restaurant openings and Babaji was one of them.
Located in the heart of central London on Shaftesbury Avenue, I witnessed the restaurant slowly put together before finally opening and then one day realising it had closed again (apparently due to a fire). When it reopened I fancied something a little more casual and decided to take my parents since it was just around the corner from the theatre.
The downstairs interior is dominated by a large wood-fired oven which is where the pide is assembled at an incredibly fast pace and then cooked.
We ordered a few starters between us including olives, halloumi and chargrilled roasted red pepper but also decided to try something slightly different, Hamsi.
The side dishes were satisfactory with nothing exceeding expectations but the Hamsi was disappointing. Although on the exterior an even golden crumb the first bite squirted a watery mess, tasting of nothing in particular.
Perhaps from all the bland dishes we ate, the pide was the most exciting although that isn’t a compliment by any means. With the other dishes aside, there was certainly plenty of cheese on the pide but a distinct lack of scattered chilli, with Babaji seeming to think plonking a full chilli would be acceptable.
I wasn’t sold on the boat shape either, which had different amounts of filling depending on the slice. I’ll stick to pizza.
Topkapi chicken was described as ‘roast chicken stuffed with spiced currant and pilau rice’. Although the chicken had a nice crispy skin, there wasn’t a hint of sweetness and the meat was dry. It just lacked flavour.
The most satisfying dish of the evening was the baklava but this was probably not made in-house, I could be wrong but I highly doubt it. For two small morsels the dish was priced at £6 and isn’t worth the hefty price tag no matter how much you’re craving the pastry.
There’s nothing exciting about Babaji and instead expect uninspiring, bland food. On the cusp of Soho, I can’t see many Londoners returning and unfortunately the restaurant will heavily rely on its tourist location rather than its food.
– Babaji, Soho