Tooting has changed significantly over the past half-decade, going from a relatively unknown, ethnically diverse backwater at the southern end of the Northern line to a well-renowned, desirable area for young professionals seeking a reasonable commute into the City. Perhaps the strongest evidence of Tooting’s ascendance is the proliferation of new and inviting restaurants that dot the high street. One such newcomer is Tangia, recently opened by a long-time local resident and describing itself as offering “traditional Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes with a modern gourmet twist”. My dining partner and I visited on a whim during their opening month, tempted in by an offer of 30% off the total bill. Tangia’s small dining room is beautifully decked out with Moroccan-style furnishings – plush, deep-red upholstery covers the comfortable bench seat along the right-hand wall, while the dark-wood chairs look like something out of Arabian nights, and the walls are hung with traditional paintings, plates and lamps. On our Thursday evening visit, only about a third of the tables were occupied, but the atmosphere was friendly and traditional music hummed pleasantly in the background.
While we perused the menu, we enjoyed a small bowl of complimentary black olives – their pungent saltiness got us salivating, but we did notice the absence of a dish in which to dispose of the stones. We were also presented with a generous basket of warm bread. This would have been a really nice touch, but we were a bit saddened to see that the bread in question was not pita, but a mixture of ordinary brown and white rolls that were verging on dry and not at all Moroccan. To begin, my dining partner chose the pan-fried tiger prawns, which were cooked with garlic, paprika, parsley and olive oil. Although the spice combination was pleasant, the prawns were ever so slightly overcooked, which gave them a bit of a rubbery texture. Still, the dish was prettily presented, with a well-dressed salad garnish. My own starter of seared scallops, with an aubergine and broad bean salad and a tarragon dressing came with the same garnish, but was a far superior dish. The scallops, although small, were succulent and sweet, while the accompanying aubergine and broad bean mix was a fantastic combination. The aubergine had a fabulously creamy texture while the broad beans provided a bit of bite, and although I couldn’t detect the advertised tarragon in the dressing, the flavours that did come through – warming turmeric and paprika, savoury cumin – were thoroughly delicious.
Moving on to main course, my dining partner’s Tangia mixed grill was a decent enough dish, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations – the chicken was juicy but lacked a bit in the seasoning department; the lamb kefta was shot through with onion and parsley but a touch on the dry side; the merguez sausage had a decent kick of spice behind it but was just a tad fatty; and accompanying yoghurt dip was pleasingly creamy but also a little under-seasoned. Again, however, my dish of marinated lamb fillet, Mediterranean vegetables, black olives & tomatoes trumped my dining partner’s. The meat was cooked medium, just as I had ordered, and was melt-in-the-mouth tender. It was beautifully presented on a bed of chargrilled courgette, creamy aubergine and sweet roasted red pepper, smothered in a rich tomato sauce and peppered with the same small, intensely salty black olives we had enjoyed at the start of our meal (this time de-stoned). This was a thoroughly satisfying main dish – each separate element was brilliantly tasty on its own, but brought together they became utterly delectable. To go with our meaty mains, we decided to share a side of couscous – wonderfully fluffy and garnished with delicately diced tomatoes and red onions and thinly shredded mint, this was a great accompaniment and the portion was the perfect size for sharing.
When dining out we often find that fitting in dessert after a full two courses is a struggle, but with its gourmet take on Moroccan cuisine, Tangia’s starters and mains were modest enough that my dining partner and I felt readily able to tackle a sweet course. The dessert list is quite short compared to the rest of the menu, and we were quite surprised to hear that the special on the day of our visit was a Tarte Tatin – a French classic, and one of my personal favourites, it’s certainly not something we’d expect to find in a Moroccan restaurant. For us, however, the choice was obvious – what better way to round of a Moroccan meal than with a selection of Moroccan pastries? Another beautifully presented dish, this was one of the highlights of our dinner. Each of the five bite-sized pastries was an utter delight. Four of them were variations on a baklava, with multiple layers of wafer-thin, crisp filo interspersed with finely chopped nuts of various kinds and soaked in a tooth-achingly sweet honeyed syrup, while the fifth offered a far more subtle kind of sweetness, with a veritable treasure trove of chopped peanuts enveloped in a crunchy thick pastry wrapper. As a finishing touch, the plate was garnished with quartered fresh strawberries whose perfect flavour made us think we were in June rather than January.
Drinks-wise, Tangia’s wine list is impressive for such a small restaurant, with a range of old and new world wines and a decent selection available by the glass. My dining partner and I both decided to sample the Siroura rouge (£6.15 for a 250ml glass) – a Moroccan red, it was pleasantly fruity with softer tannins than we were expecting, and went extremely well with our meal. As well as the wine list, Tangia also offers an interesting choice of cocktails, reasonably priced at £7.50 each, plus the usual soft drinks. Service throughout our meal was professional and attentive, without being at all overbearing. The one waiter also acted as maitre d’ and runner – fine when the restaurant was only a third full, but we’d expect that on a busier night they might benefit from an additional staff member. With our 30% discount, the bill came in at £46.90 for three courses and a drink, excluding service, which we felt was eminently reasonable. At full price, however, our meal would have cost us £67, which at £33.50 a head is towards the top end for Tooting. Would we return? Certainly – as we told the owner and head chef when he came out of the kitchen to greet us as we were leaving. Effusive and friendly, he was clearly passionate about his cooking, and we were impressed by him taking the time to speak to his customers. Although there were a few little quibbles with my dining partner’s dishes, our impression of Tangia was good. A nice addition to Tooting’s growing collection of neighbourhood restaurants, Tangia scores a respectable three and a half Forks-Up.Tangia
108 Mitcham Rd
T: 020 3774 0779