Downtown Tel Aviv debuts in Southwark
A deliciously different all-day eatery bringing the bustling, buzzing street life atmosphere of Tel Aviv to Southwark’s Union Street Arches, Bala Baya is a sleek new restaurant just opened this month.
With its stylish Bauhaus-inspired interior, this is the first standalone project from Israeli-born Head Chef Eran Tibi, formerly of Ottolenghi, Made in Camden and the critically acclaimed Zest@JW3.
Eran, whose vibrantly progressive cuisine is rooted in his mother’s Middle Eastern home cooking and generations of baking expertise, met co-founder and former creator of When Mac Met Cheese, Sammy Shonn, through a mutual fascination with Tel Aviv’s dynamic ‘White City’ from which Bala Baya derives inspiration.
Designed by multi-award winning designer, AfroditiKrassa, working with GS Contracts as main contractors, Bala Baya is located within railway arches on a pedestrianised courtyard.
The approximately 107 sq m interior features a downstairs space with a fast-paced grab-and-go setting, including an open kitchen and bar reminiscent of the world famous Bauhaus balcony of Tel Aviv’s Cinema Hotel.
Upstairs, on a mezzanine level, the finer finishes reflect the more refined dinner menu, encompassing a 76 cover restaurant allowing for tables of up to 16, fostering the convivial spirit at the heart of Bala Baya’s ethos.
Bala Baya’s innovative daytime menu is focused around a custom-made pitta oven, designed by Eran’s father. Transported from Tel Aviv, the oven fills the restaurant with the aroma of freshly baked bread. The menu will range from in-house made breakfast pastries, to original and contemporary takes on the classic pitta pockets at lunch.
The evening menu encapsulates sharing in its true form; with a hands-on, hands-in approach to family-style dining, including dishes such as salmon and tahini (salt baked blackened salmon with tahini, picked chilli, tomato pulp and herb oil) and aubergine and garissa date glaze (tea smoked aubergine with harissa and date glaze, spicy nut crumb, lime and goats curd).
Desserts include chocolate and hazelnut Babka (Babka with smeared chocolate and hazelnut spread, plums, pecan praline and Crème Anglaise).
A design-led project, the restaurant’s interiors have been carefully considered and perfectly planned to emulate Tel Aviv’s heady, sun-soaked early evenings. As the day cools, the palm shadows lengthen, and the city comes alive.
Bala Baya has specially imported traditional breeze blocks from Israel as well as plants from the region to recreate these dusk-lit shapes and dancing shadows. As the afternoon draws to a close and the light of the setting sun shines through the glass-fronted restaurant, the space slowly transforms to an evening setting.
Afroditi Krassa said: “The interior had to work within the constraints of the venue’s setting under the railway arches. For instance, on the mezzanine level we had to consider how the shape of the railway arches affected the design of the space.
“The design is also inspired by the menu, drawing inspiration from Tel Aviv with it’s exciting, buzzing street life, together with the architectural influence of the Bauhaus movement and the ‘summery’ feel often associated with the city.
“To encapsulate this fresh, outdoor feel, we used breeze blocks and terrazzo, combining a soft and pale palette with vibrant and warm colours.
“The interior also had to reflect the restaurant’s change of offer, with quick service at lunchtime morphing into a more relaxed pace in the evening.”
A key design feature of the interior is the central bar which wraps around the open theatre kitchen, allowing customers to see food being prepared.
All joinery fixtures, fixed furniture and feature lighting within the venue were designed by the AfroditiKrassa studio.
AfroditiKrassa concluded: “Every project is different and exciting and though we’ve worked on more than 75 projects, the novelty never wears off.
“Seeing a project from inception to opening is always thrilling. In addition, working with such a passionate team as the one behind Bala Baya is amazing. We truly believe that from great partnership comes great design.”
GS Contracts were pleased to be the main fit out contractor for Eran Tibi and Sammy Shonn’s new bakery-restaurant venture BalaBaya, in Union Street, Southwark. The design is very much in keeping with the menu offer, reflecting the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv. The design studio Afroditi Krassa created distinct settings for the ground floor reflecting the lively Tel Aviv Café culture and a more refined mezzanine level.
GS Contracts have worked with Afroditi Krassa on many projects and take great pleasure in helping to bring these designs to life. As ever there were many challenges that fitting out a railway arch bring and helping to overcome these whilst still being true to the design intent is something that we relish said Michael Sullivan the GS Contracts Senior Project Manager.
“Blending the various finishes and styles required a lot of thought and attention to detail,” Michael added, “to ensure that these came together in the right way.”
Of the client and design team, Michael said: “It is always very helpful to have a client that knows what they want and are happy to take advice and guidance of how to achieve it. I think we can all stand back and be pleased with the end result.”
Eran and Sammy had some very specific requirements with regard to the equipment and as this is all on show in the open kitchen this needed to be carefully co-ordinated especially with delivering some very large pieces of equipment such as the custom-made pitta oven.
GS Contracts enjoy working with these new and exciting brands and facing the challenges that the unique setting and distinctive design create.
“Our aim is to be seen as part of the project team not simply a “contractor” Michael said. “We actively engage with the client to find practical solutions to all the design issues, and I believe from the positive feedback we have had we achieved this.”
BalaBaya are currently taking bookings on their website for their opening in January.