Souk Medina: Belly dancers, Dolmades and Tagines in London, England
1 Shorts Gardens, Charing Cross, Covent Gardens, London, England
If you like belly dancers and Moroccan food, Souk Medina is the place for you. Just around the corner from Leicester Square, Souk Medina is a cozy restaurant featuring a large dining room and smaller private rooms called Casbah. We opted to sit in one of the private rooms with comfy low seats filled with pillows, low tables and the ceiling dramatically tented with cloth.
We used our Taste Card to order the set menu which turned out to be both plentiful and tasty. As we waited for our appetizers to arrive, a scantily clad belly dancer entered the room. To all the men’s delight, she whipped off her golden cape and started belly dancing as the music thumped louder in the small room. One of the customers even got enthusiastic enough to dance with her. I wonder if his wife minded.
The dolmades arrived perched on the side of a bowl of salad. Dolmades are little rolls of grape leaves filled with rice, lamb, currents and mint. I love the mint in these rolls, giving them a refreshing kick of flavour. The rice in the filling was also cooked perfectly, soft and chewy, binding the rolls together.
Our second appetizer, Merguez with Batata Harra was a little bit on the spicy side. This dish was chunks of lamb sausages with potato and spices. The spices had a deep smokiness to them, and really hits you in the back of the throat rather than lighting your tongue on fire at first contact. I love lamb though so I really couldn’t get enough of these sausages. They were firm and lean but even cloaked in spice, the trademark lamb meat taste came through.
I ate a lot of pita bread with the Merguez, if only to drown out the spicy aftertaste in the back of my throat. The deliciously creamy humous with olive oil was also great to snuff out the spiciness. The humous was thick enough to really stick to the bread. I hate runny humous.
Next, came my favourite dish of the night: lamb with roasted potatoes and prunes. I love that all the entree dishes are served in traditional tagines. The vaulted lids are the coolest things: trapping the heat inside the dish, and also encasing the rich aroma from the spices and sauces. The lamb was exquisitely tender, falling apart so easily that we could only use spoons to scoop helpings from the tagine dish. The prunes added a sweetness to balance the gamey taste from the lamb. And the potatoes added a heartiness to the whole dish.
The chicken tagine was tasty as well, the chicken was cooked with saffron and herbs. The meat was tender and flavourful but the flavours were not nearly as rich and strong as the lamb tagine. Plus by this point, I was pretty stuffed and I was still trying to save room for dessert!
Our side dishes included couscous and chick peas with vegetables. Both went well with the lamb and the chicken. I normally don’t eat couscous since I’m not a fan of its gritty texture but the way it’s cooked in the tagine actually made it tender. Somehow the little grains of couscous seemed more plump and soft. Must be something in this British water! The chick peas were also very plump, soft and tasted wonderful when paired with the heavier flavours from the lamb and the spicy lamb sausage.
Dessert came on a plate dusted with powdered sugar, and it was one of my favourites: baklava. If baklava is the last thing I eat, I can die happy. And the baklava at Souk Medina was definitely up to par. Layers of crisp pastry soaked in honey with crunchy, sweet nuts in each layer, these baklava squares were scrumptious. Each little bite was sweet, sticky and delectable, this was the perfect ending to a very enjoyable meal!