HYDE Park is perhaps not the immediate destination of choice for the non-studenty diner but its varied offer really should be explored given the chance.
We were looking for an early Sunday evening express dinner and, in the back of my mind, I remembered a Middle-Eastern looking café that I had been meaning to try out but never got round to.
And so it was we found ourselves at Oranaise, happy to escape from the trappings of city centre dining.
This Algerian/Moroccan diner has been open since 2002.
There’s certainly nothing ambiguous about the decor. This place wears its North African heart on its sleeve, its walls, its floor and every bit of space going. You can even buy trinkets and gifts from North Africal, including lanterns and tagine pots.
The menu was huge. That’s not surprising as the café is open pretty much round the clock, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps some simplification might be helpful.
The menu includes a large selection of hot and cold ‘mezze’ starters, with offerings like falafel, kofta meatballs and shwarma no great surprise. There is also a selection of pizza and pastas, many
Rating: 4/5combining Mediterranean and Maghreb flavours, as well as tagines, burgers and an extensive grill selection.
I especially liked the look of the Marrakech Pizza, made with slow cooked Moroccan lamb, caramelised onion, olive, aubergine, feta, jalapenos and harissa sauce. The Moroccan Anti-Pasti, featuring artichoke, mixed olives, tiger prawns and tabouleh salad also looked intriguing.
As we were after a light(ish) meal, we decided to order just one starter and one main, and share both.
Our Mezze Special platter (£9.95) consisted of falafel, houmous, herby couscous, kofta meatballs and spicy tomato chicken. It came served on a big china dish. There was no elegance about it at all, but we attacked the platter with the gusto it was no-doubt intended to inspire, Most of the elements were tasty and well cooked, but I found the meatballs a little dense. I loved the coriander-packed couscous. The falafel, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, was also packed with flavour.
For the second dish, my companion and I shared the Mixed Meat Brochet £9.95, a selection of grilled marinated lamb and chicken as well as ‘merguez’ sausage. We had this with chips and rice.
The meat was all cooked beautifully and was delicately spiced. The chunky chips were lovely, but I especially loved the fluffy, daintily flavoured rice with its yellow saffron hue. The winning element, which brought everything together, was the accompanying red pepper sauce which I couldn’t get enough of.
The best thing about Oranaise is its welcoming, comforting feel, reflected both in the food and the vibe. Our dining experience definitely gave us the feel-good factor.
Our bill, with soft drinks and coffees, came to a not-unreasonable £30.
We’ll definitely be returning.