A few weeks into its existence, Bouga is buzzing. It’s Thursday evening and most of the tables are packed. I must admit I was intrigued that a new Moroccan establishment was making its way to the Crouch End Broadway – I’d seen another North African in the area perish not very long ago. So what’s different about Bouga?
Let’s start with the cleverly named cocktails, which are pleasingly unusual and potent. For under £5 each, sample premium long, short and martini cocktails with a kick. We experimented with the fruity Habibi, a mixture of raspberry vodka, melon liqueur and fresh pineapple and lemon juices, and the Zaneta, an exotic and zingy concoction of Smirnoff Black vodka, fresh watermelon, fresh red chilli, elderflower and lime juices. The Arabian Mist andBlind Date also caught our attention, but sadly it was a school night. We did, however, notice quite a few customers in the front lounge not so worried about taking advantage of these pre-dinner decompressors.
Bouga’s overall feel also does wonders on the relaxation front, despite its busyness. Once you’re through the massive wooden doors out front, you are instantly transported. Ornate hanging lanterns, vibrant fabrics and tiling, and rose petals along the tabletops lull you into another world. Service is inviting and warm too – and frantically moving around to tend to the mid-sized restaurant’s many revellers.
Having been to Morocco in the last year, I was delighted to see some familiar favourites on the compact, solid menu. Soak up cocktails beginning with kemia – dishes for sharing – various cold and hot plates including spicy Merguez sausages, lamb kofta, and salata hamas, Harissa-spiced broad beans, chick peas and peppers. Authentic harirra soup was gratifyingly spicy, and served with contrasting lemon and date. All starters are priced at £3.95, except for savoury and sweet chicken pastille for £4.95.
From the selective wine list (£11.50 to £38.75 per bottle) we chose a smooth Moroccan Merlot to accompany our main dishes. Luscious beef kofta tagine with chermoula sauce and poached egg was delivered in lavish but earthy dishware, as was the sumptuously generousBouga royal couscous, filling us with grilled lamb skewer, Merguez sausage and chicken skewer. And my couscous was faultless – moist, fluffy and perfectly seasoned. For vegetarians, there are two options: a seven vegetable couscous and a vegetable tagine. All main meals are priced modestly under £12.95.
As it was a Thursday evening, diners were periodically interrupted (though I didn’t hear much complaining) by a roving, voluptuous belly dancer. Entertaining guests Wednesdays to Saturdays, the resident performer adds to the holiday-ish vibe.
We were too full for dessert, but there are a few sweet treats if you are left wanting. In addition to a restaurant and bar, Bouga also calls itself a tea room, offering a soothing selection of spicy, fruity and herby teas by the pot or glass to round out your meal.
So settle in for a few drinks, a hearty Moroccan feast or a pot of calming tea in the heart of one of North London’s little gems.