58 James Street, London. W1U 1QE
Telephone: 020 7935 9839
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Opening Times: Mon to Sun 12pm till 12am
Average Price: £50 for set meal with 2 cocktails
Anorth African themed restaurant. Location, price and interior all lead to the conclusion that it is solely kitted out to lure unsuspecting gullible patrons. Equivalent I would say to dining in a Mexican themed restaurant only to be inundated with Mexican memorabilia and dancing Sombrero-wearing waiters with thick bushy black moustaches. Ole!
We were led downstairs to an intimate and cosy cave prefect for large groups. Very dark as you would expect. TOH who had booked the place, told us that we could only have the three course set menu for £24.50 (including tea/coffee). No this wasn’t a special. It seems to be Ayoush’s unwritten policy that for groups larger than six, you can’t order from the ala carte menu. ALL must have the set menu. Beware of this. (Incidentally the lady who she spoke to over the phone had a “take it or lump it” attitude).
On perusing the reviews of other patrons I have quickly sussed out that service and politeness is not one of Ayoush’s strong points. My guess is that they have done their homework and are too perusing websites to see what customer’s think of their service and food. So I am glad and relieved to say that service was exemplary to the point of over-friendliness. Not a negative at all in my view.
Music ranged from Arabic pop to Western tunes. I was temporarily confused when Sean Paul was blasting out into the stratosphere. Women started belly-dancing in the middle of the restaurant (hen’s night?). Might have been a professional dancer there. Being in the cave keeps you pretty much excluded from all the entertainment.
The collection of starters arrived with plenty of pitta bread to share. All were well-presented, more than enough to go around. In terms of taste, I can’t really rant and rave. Nothing out of the ordinary. Bog standard north African fare really.
Labna - dry yoghurt served with cucumber, olive oil, garlic and mint.
Warak Enab Mahshee - vine leaves stuffed with an aromatic mix of rice, parsley and spices.
Salade Egyptienne - oriental mix of tomatoes, lettuce, artichoke, asparagus.
Calamari and Sambousek au fromage - golden fired freshly made crisp pastry filled with goat's cheese and butter.
After a small break and further topping up on drinks (they are very good in asking you for more cocktails, after all, it is their highest money earner) mains were served. You can either order one dish each from their set collection of mains. Or you can just order one of each of the mains so that everyone can taste the variety. I don’t know about you, but I find eating one main dish (when it comes to Arabic food) very monotonous, heavy and boring.
Again standard fare and nothing radical.
Tagine du poulet - baby chicken cooked in traditional Moroccan sauce served with slices of marinated lemon and olives. A disappointing bland dish.
Lamb tagine - cubes of lamb served with sweet prunes and dried apricots. Noticeably the huge pieces of prunes and dried apricots were left aside. Lamb not the most tender.
Les couscous du poulet - chicken cooked in spices served with steamed cous cous. Plain and uninspiring.
Les couscous d'agneau - lamb brochettes served with steamed cous cous.
By the way, it's not my lack of photography skills that is making all the dishes look suspiciously the same.
Seabass in tomato sauce cooked the 'Alexandrian' way served with white rice. By the far the most interesting of all the dishes. On top were roasted Mediterranean veges which really brought the fish out of obscurity.
For desserts an impressive platter of Al-kahkeyeen pastry - baklava, basboussa and kanafa. Hardly touched as we were all too stuffed with pitta bread and cous cous. I can assure you though, from what I tried – they were buttery, flakey and sickly sweet. Perfectly complimented with hot mint tea.
So we ate. Yes we were filled. We drank. Then the bill came.
£50 per person.
Ayoush works because of the atmosphere. Food wise, you could get cheaper and better on Edgeware road, but with zilch ambience (if that’s what you’re hankering for). I hastened to say that bright fluorescent lights and cheap plastic tables and chairs have a unique charm on its own when placed in context and at the right price. Do be careful when knocking back the drinks. Do they really think they can justify the prices they charge equivalent to a high end bar?
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