Tel: +44 (0)20 8368 7989
Address: 189 Woodhouse Road, London N12 9AY
Cuisine Type: north African
West Finchley (NORTHERN)
This little restaurant is tucked away at the end of a tiny parade of unassuming shops deep in the heart of suburbia, so much so that I have driven past it many times without realising it existed. Bel Azur is obviously family run, with the homely atmosphere and friendly service that makes you feel like a guest invited over for dinner.
The food is the kind of hearty home-cooked fare that you might well expect a family in Morocco to sit down to. For starters, there is only Brique a l’oeuf, with or without tuna. Go for the tuna – for an extra 20p, it gives the runny egg deep-fried in filo pastry an added dimension.
Mains basically comprise cous cous with a choice of vegetable stew (£7), vegetable stew with lamb / chicken (£9) or halibut (£12), or push the boat out with cous cous royale for £15. Given that they specialise in cous cous, it is no surprise that it is cooked very well, each grain separate, with a slight bite and delicately flavoured with caraway seeds. If you have only ever tried the bland cold cous cous salad out of plastic containers or the mushy, glutinous stodge served that canteens labelled as cous cous, go to Bel Azur just for the real McCoy. Perfect for soaking up the plentiful vegetable stew.
The wine list is in keeping with the rest of the menu – short and reasonably priced, with the majority of bottles at under £15.
Desserts are limited to the likes of ice cream, sorbet, crème caramel and crepes suzettes, but the star offering was traditional sweets, comprising a selection of cakes – honey cake, date cake and a light, buttery baklava, which again tasted home-made and so much better than the sickly sweet variety I’ve had before.
And, at £30 for two, including a glass of Calvados to finish, Bel Azur is much better value than similar restaurants in central London.