First dates in Bala Baya, Southwark

So here’s the thing about most of us bloggers: we probs feel like we’ve known each other for yonks even if we’ve never met. Through social media accounts (are we friends on Insty yet, btw), we basically know things about each other - from trivialities like last thing we ate or last tequila shots, to big news like “OMG she’s expecting!” or moving house.

It’s cute, this friendship we have as bloggers (and isn’t it adorbs how we sometimes still call each other by our blog handles?) I’ve met some good mates within the London blogging community, with a few who’ve been rather instrumental in my life. But whilst I’ve made great online buddies, there are some whom I’ve not really met yet.

The thing with bloggers is that once you both decide to properly meet for the first time, you know you’re kinda halfway there. You’re comfy enough to know what food they like (#foodporn), what they call their partners (#loveofmylife), where they last went on hols (#travelbug), what issues they have (#theartofnotgivingafuck), or even what they look like without clothes (#beachbodyready). I guess the nerves come when you think “Oh gosh, I hope we gel well IRL” and pray there won’t be awkward silences - or ten thousand small convos about the weather.

Shikha (of Why Waste Annual Leave) is one of the very few bloggers whose writing I admire so much. I love reading her symphonic blog posts because they’re clever and witty, personable and relatable. We’ve exchanged likes and comments previously, but it was when she fell in love with the Philippines that I knew it was time for that first date. Happily agreeing on a time and place, we decided to catch up about our trips in Bala Baya.

I’d like to think my first date with Shikha went so well that as I write, I have a wide smile on my face. Firstly, she’s even more beautiful in person. She really radiates when she talks, like an animated light bulb full of bright ideas. She’s genuinely one of the bloggers I adore and look forward to reading, because she puts her heart into her content which is seriously interesting. I can’t wait to read more of her stories - or better yet, hear more of it over more dates!

As for the food, I’d like to say that great company usually makes a decent meal but the food was pretty fantastic, too! And I think we did well for two petite ladies.

We started off with some complimentary bread served with a yogurt and harissa dip. It had a good kick, and I had to stop myself from digging in knowing we’ve got quite a feast to finish.

Bala Baya’s squidilicious dish may have a funky sounding name, but dont let the label fool you. This is a divine, lush plate of tender seafood. It’s lightly seasoned to let the flavour shine and boldly garnished to compliment its natural sweetness.

The aubergine mess was one of my highlights. Granted, it did look like a mess but it delivered a delicious smoky flavour from the eggplant with hints of tanginess from the sauce and dollops of tahini. There’s also some lychee, giving it a wee bit of sweetness I liked.

The sweet potato and lamb dish was quite a nice thing I’d love to have for lunch. Sweet potato hummus, is topped with tender braised lamb shoulder and pine nuts. The texture was good, and the neither ingredients overpowered the other.

If there was one thing I could’ve gone without, it would be the stuffed potatoes. Topped with taleggio, black truffle and garnished with spring onion and tomato relish, it was quite filling and I thought the flavour wasn’t as strong as I had hoped it would be. Delish, but not quite there.

Star of the night? Gotta be the fish and fennel. A whole filleted sea bass cooked on the grill with toms on the vine, burnt sage and lemon and served with fresh fennel and butter and anise sauce.

Like shit man, this is how I like my fish cooked. Soft, meaty yet flaky and with a good amount of bounce. I’m almost always reluctant when I see fennel and anise as ingredients, but the sauce was subtle and the fresh fennel worked well with the fish itself.

As for our sweet ending, we went traditional with burnt babka. The pastry’s a bit more dense but I enjoyed the hazelnut and chocolate spread inside. And the whisked anglaise they served it with was rather awesome, too.

Verdict for Bala Baya

I really enjoyed the food at Bala Baya and the atmosphere was pretty good on a Monday. It seemed like a nice place to go for first dates, where you can actually hear your companion and make conversation. Service was pretty tight, and the food was definitely good.

However, I have to say Shikha made the whole experience very enjoyable. She’s definitely a star and a force to be reckoned with. Go give Bala Baya a visit, then go read Shikha’s blog!

Bala Baya
Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union St, London SE1
Ave spend pp: £40

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  1. 26th January 2018 / 7:36 pm

    Wow that food looks utterly incredible, wonderful that you got to share it with a blogging buddy too x

    • Honey de Gracia
      27th January 2018 / 9:21 am

      Nothing like a good meal with even better company!

  2. Timothy Gagnon
    26th January 2018 / 8:05 pm

    Looks really awesome! I have never actually met another blogger in real life (that I know of) but it’s definitely on my list. Thanks for sharing! Love the pics!

    • Honey de Gracia
      27th January 2018 / 9:22 am

      Oh Tim, it’s fun to meet bloggers! Haha i hope you get to soon!

  3. 26th January 2018 / 8:21 pm

    The food looks delicious! How lovely that you managed to meed a fellow blogger too.

    • Honey de Gracia
      27th January 2018 / 9:22 am

      Food was rather stunning!

  4. Helen
    26th January 2018 / 8:22 pm

    Oo this looks delicious 🙂 I love harissa, but have never thought of having it with yogurt as a dip!

    • Honey de Gracia
      27th January 2018 / 9:23 am

      Neither did I, Helen! I know not much of Israeli food other than the usual mezzes etc but this restaurant elevated the cuisine!

  5. 26th January 2018 / 9:09 pm

    Bala Baya has been on my list for a while since I had some of their dishes at Taste of London. Their brunch looks great too! I love the sound of your dishes and the concept of lots of different plates.

    Meg x

    • Honey de Gracia
      27th January 2018 / 9:24 am

      Cheers Meg! I hope you get to visit because they were absolutely darlings. And the food was super good.

  6. 26th January 2018 / 11:23 pm

    Food looks and sounds lovely - nice place for a date like you say, especially on a Monday night when I can assume it’s not too busy 🙂

    • Honey
      28th January 2018 / 11:34 am

      The restaurant was the perfect setting, there was enough people to have an atmosphere but it wasn’t too crazy that we couldn’t hear each other 🙂

  7. 27th January 2018 / 1:04 am

    What are you doing to me, woman?! Eyes wet with tears reading this, as so moved by your comments (esp as I am defo not worthy of them!!) Am so glad we finally got to meet & can’t believe that after 3 hours, I felt like we’d barely got started with the conversation I genuinely had the best time & so glad you suggested somewhere, where the food was so on point. Haven’t been able to shift the kilo I gained that night but it was worth it! I have a feeling we have many more foodie dates to come - I’ll come dressed in more stretchy clothes next time in anticipation shall I?!

  8. 27th January 2018 / 9:44 am

    I have always loved meeting fellow bloggers, and over the years (blogging since 2009) I’ve made some wonderful friends. The meal you shared at Bala Baya looks wonderful!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:47 am

      That’s a long time to blog!!! It’s so nice, though isn’t it - this community of bloggers that we have 🙂

  9. 27th January 2018 / 11:27 am

    It’s so nice that you were able to meet in person. I have a HUGE list of bloggers/friends I would like to meet this year. The friendships you create through Blogging really are wonderful. Bala Baya sounds lovely and the dessert looks divine.

    Ami xxx

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:46 am

      I know, right? There are a number of bloggers I still want to meet! Bala Baya was good - hope you get to try it out! =)

  10. Gabriel Leo Smith
    27th January 2018 / 12:21 pm

    Amazing experience haven’t had a good time like this for long I think I’ll hook up with some friends this Sunday though

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:45 am

      Haha, hope you had fun.

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:45 am

      It’s very yummy! =)

  11. 27th January 2018 / 1:05 pm

    Amazing pictures. Instantly tickles the foody in me. ☺

  12. natasha
    27th January 2018 / 2:27 pm

    great food shots , looks yum

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:44 am

      They were yum.

  13. 27th January 2018 / 3:00 pm

    Fantastic photos! and the food there looks outstanding. Whenever I get to visit London, I will certainly have to put Bala Baya on the list!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:47 am

      Oooh I hope you do, it’s a very good restaurant and very cheap too!

  14. Sonja Josipovic
    27th January 2018 / 4:46 pm

    That food looks utterly incredible! Yummy!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:44 am

      Thanks Sonja, it was great - you should try!

  15. 27th January 2018 / 7:00 pm

    Wow this food looks incredible! Its great to meet fellow bloggers too - good for you! 🙂

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:44 am

      I loved the food, it was so beautiful!

  16. 27th January 2018 / 7:17 pm

    Some of my best friends are people I’ve met through blogging and they all tend to call me Gingey instead of my name (Alex!). The fish looks wonderful, I love it with fennel so that would have been my star dish too :0)

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:43 am

      To be fair, I actually thought your name was Gingey too! Hahaha, I know and I’m almost always Girl Next Shore!

  17. 27th January 2018 / 7:27 pm

    Seems like you guys had a great night! The food looks amazing and I would love me some of that aubergine mess. I have never met a blogging buddy IRL …sad, I know. We live rather nomadic and constantly move from one remote Canadian village to the next, which makes it a bit difficult. Well, if I were to meet one of my blogging mates, it would surely involve delicious food and wine! No better way to bond, right? Cheers,

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:43 am

      Aww Kiki that does make it difficult. I do hope you get to when you settle in a place where another blogger’s staying though! And agre: food + wine maketh almost always a nice night!

  18. Addie
    28th January 2018 / 12:54 am

    That food looks so good! Really cool that you met up with your blogger friend in person! I’ll have to check out her page as well!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:40 am

      Oh please do, I absolutely adore her writing!

  19. 28th January 2018 / 1:52 am

    You weren’t joking when you said food porn. I want to try the drinks and bread and the sweet potato dish the most. You’re braver than me as a foodie I would not have been able to get over the fennel.

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:41 am

      Hahaha the fresh fennel was actually super good! That bread was pretty decent too!

  20. 28th January 2018 / 10:06 am

    I live in Kennington so I am guessing this is quite close to me. Off to check it out. Fish with fennel is a classic but that one does look particularly yummy!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:40 am

      It’s literally a stone’s throw away from Southwark tube. 🙂 This was delicious!

  21. 28th January 2018 / 10:23 am

    It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Shikha is one of the biggest babes of the blogging community. So glad that you got to meet!

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:39 am

      She’s such a babe indeed! I love her and glad to finally have met her!
      See you soon, Angie!

    • 28th January 2018 / 2:42 pm

      Ok, both of you ladies totally & utterly know how to make a girl feel special & boost her confidence! So kind of you girls - so glad I’ve met people like you both through the supportive blogging world

  22. Anuradha Manjul
    28th January 2018 / 10:45 am

    An interesting article. It is always exciting to meet the fellow bloggers. And add to it the review for a joint.

    • Honey de Gracia
      28th January 2018 / 11:37 am

      Yup, I like meeting bloggers I love.

  23. 28th January 2018 / 1:53 pm

    The food looks incredible. Will bookmark for when I am next in London

  24. 28th January 2018 / 7:51 pm

    Oh wow that food!! The fish looks to die for, I would love to eat there!

  25. 28th January 2018 / 8:05 pm

    Wow - all that food looks incredible. How great that you were able to share it with another blogger from our Tribe.

  26. 29th January 2018 / 1:00 am

    I have not met any bloggers yet 🙁 but I will in the fall at a convention! Loved your meal, everything looked delicious and great for conversation. The fish would be my favorite!

  27. 29th January 2018 / 5:29 pm

    What a sweet ode to your blogger friend, Honey!
    I loved reading your intro - and was literarily nodding while reading it 🙂 You are so right… I have a few blogger friends, who I have never met IRL, but I really feel like I know them - and I turn to them for personal questions on my blog instead of my “real” friends, because they simply relate better to bloggers’ problems 🙂

    As always the food looks amazing… Especially the Aubergine Mess

    X Louise

  28. 29th January 2018 / 11:06 pm

    Sampled some Bala Baya dishes at Taste of a London this year, and vowed to go to the restaurant proper some time. Your post has made me realise that that’s totally overdue - those dishes look and sound incredible. (Also agree with you about Shikha - she’s such a star!)

    • 30th January 2018 / 12:35 am

      Oh Aaron! We spoke of you too as we both think you wrote oh so beautifully, too! Perhaps we should all meet up soon… and discuss the NHS? Lol.

      • 31st January 2018 / 3:53 pm

        Yes yes, we must! Will let you both know when I’ve next some free time in town. I now work in Surrey, and so really miss being able to catch up with people after work, but hopefully on a day off. Thanks so much too for your kind comments as well! 🙂

        • 1st February 2018 / 2:45 pm

          Yes I’d love a meet up between all of us when you’re next free Aaron- though maybe we’ll talk more food & less NHS!! 😀

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