The best part of moving home is that you start discovering new areas for food! Balham has been a trendy place for quite some time but recently it has become one of our favourite hangout places as well! Our first test drive was the newly refurbished Foxlow. You can read about this at my blog here.
This time it was the turn of Curveball. Upon recommendation from a colleague on best places to eat in Balham, I had begun following them on social media. When they announced the launch of their new menu, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to experience something new in an already established and popular place!
Judging by first impressions, the menu may have changed, but its popularity remains the same. On a cold rainy Tuesday when most Londoners were huddled on their sofas watching the rain lash their windows, Curveball was packed to the rafters. The place was heaving, not just with people who had reservations but plenty of walk-ins as well.
The first thing that strikes you about this place is the bright yellow facade. Yellow is a happy, positive and optimistic colour (my blog name has it). Standing outside the restaurant, you naturally feel drawn to this bright and welcoming place.
The restaurant is split into two levels. On the ground floor is the main seating area and kitchen. You can catch all the action in the kitchen from a neat little cut-out window in the wall. Downstairs is the cocktail bar and some high bar stools for a more casual setup. The interiors are light and airy, with the ubiquitous overflowing plant pots, bare brick walls and pretty patterned floor tiles. But it feels clean and cheerful so I am not complaining!
They have an amazing craft beer selection from smaller, boutique breweries based around London, including Fourpure and Belleville Brewery, both of which we recently discovered at a southwest London beer tasting event.
The menu is predominantly small plates with a few additional larger plates and sides. We decided to focus on the small plates this time. If you have read my blogs, you may be well aware of my slight annoyance at this pervasive concept of small plates in London restaurants. The portion sizes seem to get smaller and smaller whilst the prices keeping shooting up. Luckily, the prices here are reasonable (£6 for one) and good value for money if you order in groups of three (£17) or five (£27) dishes.
We ordered about five small plates to begin with. First to arrive was the Surf’s Up – charcoal-fired Creole spiced prawn skewers. The charcoal-scarred prawns, impaled on skewers, were subtly spiced with the beautiful smoky flavours coming through. It was drizzled with oil which helped keep the prawns moist and juicy.
Next up was The Little Tokyo – Yakitori-glazed skewered chicken with ginger, sesame and shaved bonita. I felt the chicken overall was a bit underwhelming. The spices were all there but had not been fully absorbed by the chicken. The flavours could have been more pronounced. I also thought the meat was slightly overdone and dry.
The Messy Mutha stood up to its name and expectations! An open sourdough melting meatball sandwich of Cumbrian beef and free range pork. Curveball initially started as a meatball restaurant, so you can clearly see their expertise at work here. The flavours in the meatballs were banging. The piping hot mess dripping into the underlying sourdough made it beautifully moist without being too soggy!
My love for carbs was satisfied by their Pimped Fries. We opted for the Messy Tony version – skinny fries loaded with those rad meatballs again, short rib ragu, rigatoni; herbflecked and slathered with their house blend of cheese. On a wet and cold Tuesday evening, it was the perfect bowl of naughty comfort food.
Last to arrive was the Bun DMC – star anise pulled beef bao bun with kewpie mayo, crispy shallots and pickled red onion. The lovely, stringy pork had bags of flavour overspilling from inside the soft yielding buns. The pickled onions added a sharp vinegary taste that went pleasantly with the meat.
After scoffing all that food, you would think we should ask for the bill. But all that delicious food (and aforementioned small plate portions) meant that we were hungry for more!
The attention drifted to the Bumble + Squeak – charcoal-fired sticky spiced halloumi skewers drizzle with honey and lime. I must have a thing for food on sticks judging by the order that night. This one was perfect: hunks of salty cheese enhanced with the gentle heat of the spices and sweetness from the honey.
The Roam (arancini of saffron risotto and fontina) was probably the least favourite of my husband though I liked it. It was a mellow dish, underpinned by that deep tomato sauce and further uplifted by the gooey Fontina.
Last of the trio was the Duckula – Hoisin confit ducks bon-bons. The sharp flavours of the fragrant duck was perfectly encased within a crispy and crunchy exterior.
Arrival of food was slightly on the slower side. But with food that good, we were happy to wait. The team are really nice, friendly and down-to-earth. They kept checking on us after every couple of minutes so definitely an attentive service.
The food here is inspired by the travels of the two co-owners. There is no fixed theme to the menu here but a little bit of everything. There is definitely an autumnal twist to the newly launched menu: deep flavours, rich meat and warming spices. The quality of cooking is really good.
Curveball is definitely a chilled, friendly neighbourhood restaurant heralding global flavours and a great menu that you don’t have to think too hard about. Just gather together a bunch of mates and order everything on the menu and you are guaranteed to have a good time, even on a weekday!
More information can be found here.
N.B. All photos and opinions are mine. I review anonymously and pay for my meals. This is not a sponsored post.