Published on November 18th, 2015 | by Gavin0
The Exhibit, Balham
Summary: A bar and restaurant with the community spirit of Balham at the heart of its philosophy
The dreaded words “Zone Three” send a shiver down the spine of those who only see London through the over protected bubble of Central London. I often get a similar response from trendy East London residents when uttering the words “South” and “London” in the same breath. But that’s not a bad thing though, because their snobbery means many of my favourite places remain unspoilt, where I can spontaneously go for Sunday brunch without needing to book two weeks in advance.
Balham is a fine example of a district that has remained relatively true to its community roots despite the invasion of Foxton’s Estate Agents and artisanal bakeries. The Exhibit is a local bar/restaurant that’s designed to also be utilised as a flexible hub for pop up art exhibitions, live events, and there’s even a cinema within the four storey enclave.
I arrive on Prosecco Thursday, where every week guests have 90 minutes to drink as much as they like (responsibly of course) for £20 per person. Sounds too good to be true but be warned, between the two of us, we only drank one bottle within the allotted time, and at £28.85 a bottle, it would have worked out cheaper if we just had just ordered that instead.
Once seated, our stylish waitress hands us the menu featuring an eclectic mix of tapas from all over the globe to reflect the melting pot that is South West London. I can spot influences from North and South America, the Caribbean, Spain, Britain, and Japan all on one page- where to begin?
If you are as stumped as I am, the safe bet would be to go for one of the tacos. We’re informed by our hostess that Chef James Donnelly spent a year in Mexico learning his craft, so has brought this experience back to London. There are three to choose from and I went for the fish with radish taco (£6.50), but heard fellow diners raving about the chilli pork too.
It’s recommended to order three to four tapas each which are delivered without haste from the open plan kitchen (located about 6 feet from where I’m seated), and we’re soon found struggling for space on our fairly large tables. Of the eight dishes we try, each offered something different with the most unique being the wild mushroom and truffled potato puree (£6.25). Essentially mushrooms with mashed potato, but don’t knock it, I could have eaten it by the bucket load!
Being a proud meat eater though, my favourite dish was the pork belly with sauerkraut (£7). Everything from the crisp skin to the hint of sweetness from the pork makes it simply irresistible- the one dish you can’t afford to skip. Special mention must go to the macaroni cheese with truffle mushrooms (£5.50) too- although not the best mac around, they deserve brownie points for using real truffles rather than the oil.
Normally when reviewing I will almost always save just a bit of room for dessert, but the four carb heavy tapas we devour render both of us incapable of speech, and although the rhubarb crumble looks tempting, we decide against it. Despite our lack of vocabulary though, my guest and I manage to communicate our approval of a fantastic night via a series of nods and grunts.
I can’t emphasise enough that The Exhibit is so much more than a restaurant; the best way to describe the vibe is like a youth centre for grown-ups. Whether it’s dining, karaoke, life drawing or speed dating, there really is something for everyone. Not bad for Zone 3, eh?
The Exhibit, 12 Balham Station Road, SW12 9SGShare This Post