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Doukan Moroccan Restaurant, Wandsworth SW18

38 Old York Road
London SW18 1SW
Tel: 020 8870 8280

When you come from a family background that is obsessed with food the chances are you may end up in the business. This is how chef and proprietor Khalil Abdesslem came to open up his first Moroccan restaurant in London, his aim being to create an authentic and atmospheric experience similar to dining back in his homeland. With no formal kitchen training behind him he learnt his craft at his mother’s knee and thereby a passion was created. Khalil also mentioned that the menu can change daily depending on his inspiration.

The word Doukan translated from Arabic means boutique, this I thought summed up rather well the wonderfully genuine and inspiring interior that he has reproduced. The welcoming dining room is full of colour and flair, from bejewelled cushions, woven place mats, attractive ceiling lamps, colourful chairs and an inviting and cheery log fire.

When it came to deciding what to eat we were grateful to have a very knowledgeable and obliging waiter come to our aid. From a choice of eight starters we began with a medley of vegetarian Moroccan appetisers (Tabssil Shlaid). This comprised Barba Shlaid, a knockout beetroot puree with plenty of fresh herbs and cumin to sharpen the taste buds. Zaalouk, a silky smooth pate of aubergine with plenty of fresh coriander. Garaa be Toum, courgettes cooked in a light garlic and paprika sauce, and Matisha Maasla, caramelised tomatoes with sweet cinnamon and sesame. These were accompanied by plenty of soft and comfortingly warm roti style bread. Our other starter, Bastilla Khoudra, was a filo parcel full of sweet and savoury chicken that had a superb nuttiness about it and came artistically presented with a contrasting tangy chutney sauce and orange blossom dressing.

To follow there was a choice of seven main courses, again our helpful waiter was on hand, coming to our rescue and helping us find a well balanced mix of dishes. We tried some Rfissa, a reassuring dish of slow cooked chicken with lentils and spices, served on a bed of shredded flat bread. We also sampled some Ketbane del Kfta, an aromatic lamb sausage came with fried onion rice and rich with currants and figs. Finally we tried a richly scented tagine of lamb which came with a luscious gravy. To drink we selected an earthy Moroccan rose, Domaine de Sahari, Gris 2006, (£17.50) from the concise wine list. This proved to have a pleasingly punchy and acidic kick in equal measure.

For pudding we chose a feather light, melt in mouth strawberry tart with a layer of crushed almonds and cinnamon, topped with lemon curd based interior and a touch of orange blossom glaze.

On the night we visited there was a really good laid back style jazz trio playing at just the right level which added to the ambience and relaxation of our evening. “The Rick’s Cafe of London” (from the film Casablana) is how the chef/patron likes to sum up Doukan. I think he may have a point.

Louise Elgin.
October 2009.

A three course meal with wine and water is around £35.00 a head.
The two course set Doukan Mid-Week Dinner Special is £19.00 per person.
House wine £14.00.

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