You can't pass a Del'Aziz without pausing to ogle the almost indecent selection of cakes and pastries in the window, which look like they're from a film scene in which the protagonist is fatally mesmerized by oversized, impossibly glossy desserts. Beyond the mountains of meringues is an invitingly cosy interior, decorated like an eastern Mediterranean souk, with chunky tables, ornate metal teapots and a deli counter almost as irresistible as the bakery.
The first branch to attract my ogling eye was in Bermondsey, among the series of 'rather nice' looking places appearing in the cultural hinterland to the east of London Bridge. There are five branches in all, spread across London – the others can be found in Bankside, Fulham, Westfield and Swiss Cottage.
After several delicious meals at the Bermondsey outlet, I was certainly not averse to trying another Del'Aziz, so took the opportunity when in Fulham recently. Here, as at the other branches, you can choose from a variety of seating options. The café area offers comfy low seating, or regular-height chunky stools around picnic-sized bare wood tables, while the restaurant area is more formal, with standard tables and chairs. There are plenty of cosy nooks for enjoying a quiet drink, as well as outside seating.
Taking a large table in the café, we started with deliciously restorative fresh mint tea – a necessary fortification before approaching the overwhelming menu selection. Choices include mezze, grilled meats and fish, stews and tagines, burgers and salads. I opted for the frittata of the day, which turned out to be red pepper, spinach and some kind of cheese, accompanied by a tasty mixed leaf salad. My companions sampled a gourmet sandwich (aubergine, courgette, roasted pepper and houmous, on a massive tomato bun) and a pitta (grilled Merguez sausage with yogurt, pickled cucumber and salad).
All were delicious, though portion sizes are a little uneven. Luckily we'd also ordered some not-so-Mediterranean fries, which went down a treat. Of course, we'd left space for dessert, and after much deliberation decided to share a strawberry tart and piece of apple cake. These were almost as moist and delicious as they looked – quite an achievement.
All in all, Del Aziz delivers a great setting, friendly service, and delicious food with really fresh flavours. In the evenings, there are live music and dance events, though according to a friend, the belly dancing show is 'good, but very short – basically one round of the room.' Definitely worth a visit, even if just for a coffee and half a giant dessert (I'll be impressed if you manage a whole one).