In the market for taste? Then try Zala
It might be on the dinky side, but Zala is a serene space in Camden Market serving genuinely exciting food
20 July, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Food arrives fast at Zala in Camden Market
IT’S been a dizzying transformation at Camden Market – from sloppy noodles to tip-top grub in the blink of an eye. Over 28 million people visit the market each year. But for decades Camden Market was shunned by most hungry locals.
Then Kerb, a street food collective, took over West Yard – enticing in dozens of high-quality traders. The food scene is now fiercely competitive and even big-name chefs are muscling in on the act.
Gabeto Cantina, a swish new brasserie, has just opened in The Stables. Their head chef used to work at Chiltern Firehouse – one of the most fashionable destinations in London.
Nearby, in Chalk Farm Road, a winsome TV cook called Gino D’Acampo is set to launch his own heavily branded Italian restaurant.
And an Israeli chef called Tomer Siv, whose CV includes Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, has transformed a prime corner site in Middle Yard.
Zala is a dinky little place: around two dozen seats set over two floors, with a handful of extra bar stools dotted around the open-plan kitchen. It’s a simple and serene space: plenty of tiles and wood, brightly lit from the high skylight above. Outside, they have added an extra grill, bar and wood fired oven – designed to serve grab-and-go pitta wraps for the passing hordes.
The food at Zala is genuinely exciting, inspired by the flavours of Jerusalem. We ripped up toasted pitta to dip into a vivid green tahini blitzed with parsley and a smokey aubergine dip with a slap of fresh raspberry.
Summer salads are original and refreshing: beetroot and fig; a jumble of fennel, kohl rabi, grapes, roasted celery, orange and peas.
The chefs show their cunning with the sauces. There’s a fiery, scarlet number of blitzed roasted tomatoes, peppers and chilli; a mango and yoghurt sauce spiked with amba, a kind of smooth mango chutney. This mangoey sauce lifts the most visually striking of the dishes – rings of fried calamari with confit garlic, crisp slivers of potato and handfuls of rocket.
Food arrives fast at Zala. After all, it’s best not to linger when space is at a premium.
They serve a riff on pizza, with a Turkish dough kneaded with yoghurt and a thin, nicely charred base.
Pitta sandwiches are stuffed with chicken, meats or more roasted aubergine and salad.
Our favourite was a main lamb dish: chunks of tender, slow-roasted shoulder given a final scorch to crisp up the edges.
Expect to pay around £20-25 per head for a full meal before drinks and service.
As a local, rather than a tourist, it’s now an adventure eating out in Camden Market. As you squeeze through the crowds, you hear snatches of languages and accents from across the globe.
Outside Zala the stalls sell every conceivable type of cuisine – from Tibetan dumplings to Venezuelan arepas. I suggest you reserve a table at Zala – then nip out to explore them for pudding.
Camden Market, Camden Lock Place
Middle Yard, NW1
020 3005 7453