An award-winning interior designer has revamped a much-loved Balham boozer. And the food’s pretty good too, whether you’re trying to save the pennies or are out for a special meal.
Locale Balham, one of a chain of five restaurants, has replaced neighbourhood favourite Ferrari’s – in just four days the soulless grey exterior was replaced by stylish maroon signage, while rust-coloured banquettes, plenty of wood and downlighters created ambience inside.
We received a warm welcome from the polyglot staff – the manager is Algerian, the waiters Brazilian and Portuguese and the chef reassuringly Italian. Our vegetarian starter of Antipasto Locale (£10.95 for two) comprised a large sharing platter of tomato bruschetta, aubergine caponata, grilled artichokes, olives, baby onions, buffalo mozzarella, sun-blushed tomatoes, freshly baked focaccia and Sardinian crisp bread – which would make a brilliant light meal on its own for credit munchers. My only nitpicking criticism is that the ingredients should have been brought to room temperature earlier as refrigeration had dulled their punchy flavours.
Main courses were exemplary: Grigliata di Pesce Misto (£13.95) – chargrilled platter of mixed fish – fillet of sea bass, calamari, salmon, tiger prawns with a mixed leaf salad had great flavours and one of the best-dressed salads I’ve had in ages, with interesting additions such as chives and fennel.
My guest was impressed too with his Linguine agli scampi e fiore di Zucca (£12.50): linguine with langoustines, courgette flowers, garlic and chilli. The sauce was rich, perfectly balanced and flavourful, with the chilli heating it all up to perfection.
The only disappointment was with the dessert. Instead of the expected candied-fruit-studded confection, my cassata was a dreary slab of multi-coloured ice cream, although the waiter cheered my spirits with a Ferrero Rocher cocktail made from coffee and chocolate liqueurs, Frangelico and cream.
The menu is pretty adventurous: Italian restaurant staples sit alongside suckling pig with apple and Marsala sauce, grilled calves’ liver with pancetta and wilted garlic spinach and a starter of scallops wrapped in pancetta with a chickpea puree and garlic chilli dressing. With starters from £4.50-£7.50 and mains £6.95-£13.95 this is a restaurant for all budgets. We liked it so much we returned three days later for Sunday lunch…a welcome addition to the local scene.
Locale Balham is open Monday to Friday 11am-11pm; Saturday 10.30am-11pm; Sunday 10.30am-10pm.
Brunch is served at weekends and traditional roast lunches on Sunday.
225 Balham High Road
Tel: 0208 682 3553