“ Address: 58 James St / London W1U 1HG / Tel: 020 7935 9839 „
I purchased a voucher through the deals company Groupon to visit this restaurant. The deal was a three-course set meal for two with cocktails for £29.
Ayoush is a Moroccan restaurant on St James Street, London. It is situated about five minutes walk from Bond Street tube station, near St Cristopher's Place. They also have branches in Eton and Bourne End. I booked up a few days before, and found the experience frustrating - the reservations book was obviously not near the phone and I had to keep repeating myself and spelling my name. When I actually arrived I wasn't 100% confident that they would have my booking, but fortunately this wasn't the case.
We booked for a (boiling hot) Sunday evening at 8pm. The restaurant is situated in a building that looks like it may have been an old pub in a previous life. There were tables on the pavement outside and it looked a bit crowded with people walking by. I was pleased to be seated inside. There is a basement room, but we were seated in the smaller ground floor area. The seating areas around the room were all brightly coloured with modern coloured ethnic style cushions and on the wall opposite (behind was a large window looking onto the street) were lots of black and white movie stills, which didn't appear to bear any relation to any film that I knew. In fact I didn't recognise any of them. I can't comment on what the décor or atmosphere was like downstairs, but as they also advertise themselves as a bit of a party place, then I would think it was more suited to that, later in the evening we did see a belly dancer head down there. Fortunately the place is air-conditioned and certainly, where I sat, it was a very comfortable temperature.
As we were on a special deal our waitress gave us a special menu, but the a la carte menu includes a range of traditional North African dishes, as well as regional takes on Roast lamb and Sea Bass dishes. We were also entitled to a free cocktail on our deal, the included cocktails all normally sell for £9-10 but they do some cheaper ones from £7.50. I picked the Arabesque which is Absoult Citron vodka, crème de fraise, champagne and strawberries. It looked stunning and tasted divine, if rather on the sweet side. My companion had chosen the Moroccan Mule which contained Absolut Citron Vodka, ginger beer, mint and lime. To me it tasted (and looked) like a classic Mojito but with a subtle gingery kick.
We had a mezze starter to share first of all. Most of the food on the platter was vegetarian apart from a minced lamb parcel so my companion was happy to swap it for a veggie alternative. We were also served a basket of Arabian bread (flatbread). The included dishes were classic dips like hummus, baba ganoush (aubergine) garnished with pomegranate seeds and labna which is a creamy, mildy cheesey dip with cucumber. There were also stuffed vine leaves, falafels, spinach and feta parcels and a fabulous spicy potato dish as well as an interesting dish of marinated broad beans. This was more than enough for two people and I thought it quite filling and very enjoyable. I do recommend it if you come here.
For mains we had a choice of traditional tagines (Moroccan stews) or cous cous dishes. I selected the vegetarian tagine with rice, and my friend had chicken tagine with cous cous. They were served in an authentic pottery tagine dish. My first impressions were very positive, I could tell that my veggie dish was full of a variety of veggies - potato, squash, carrot, courgette, aubergine as well as lots of olives. I needed to stir them around a bit to get them covered in the spicy sauce, but it was certainly delicious and a good size portion. The rice and cous cous were served on the side and were both twice as large as they needed to be. The chicken tagine was also well received.
Our offer also entitled us to some traditional mint tea, and a dessert. There was no choice for dessert, but it was very similar to a strawberry blancmange served with whipped cream. There are other options available on the a la carte menu, but nothing with the 'wow' factor.
I was very pleased with the service; our waitress was full of smiles and seemed genuinely happy to be serving us. She offered us glasses of tap water and regularly topped them up, without trying to up-sell more expensive drinks. I visited the ladies toilet on the ground floor, of which there was only one cramped cubicle. I assume there are more downstairs. Décor was in keeping with the restaurant and there was plenty of toilet paper, and paper towels.
As I mentioned in the beginning, we had a special Groupon offer, however if you did not have this offer a set meal similar to the one we had is available for £26.50 per head, and cocktails can be up to £10. Without this offer it obviously is a pricier meal, but I did think it to be of excellent quality, in lovely surroundings with very good service, so I do recommend you give it a try if you enjoy this type of cuisine.