As Za’atar Bake on Cowley Road opened at 12 noon, I was already queueing, knowing how popular it was, and wanting to make sure I got a table.
How popular however exceeded all my expectations, streams of people flooding in behind me until it was pretty much full within 10 minutes of pulling up the blinds.
Most restaurateurs would sell their souls for this kind of patronage on a wet, windy Tuesday lunchtime, but such is its appeal apparently. It boded well for the food at least but I wanted to find out what the fuss was all about.
“we dived in, in fact dived is too elegant a term, we engulfed the lot”
I’d passed Za’atar Bake so many times when wandering down Cowley Road, its tables spilling out onto the pavement, full of colourful people chatting, laughing and enjoying themselves.
Thriving in the summer, the al fresco element especially appealing, I resolved to return when the days began drawing in, where I could sit inside and soak up the atmosphere, see what all the fuss was about.
So here I was ensconced in the cheerful interior on the cosy banquettes, pouffes and stools, and what became immediately apparent is that Za’atar Bake is more than just an Arabic bakery.
Yes, there are counters of exotic and opulent looking Middle Eastern pastries tempting you with their wares, but there’s also an extensive and equally as enticing savoury menu.
Enjoying a fresh mint tea made with actual mint, and some delicious coffee, we mulled over the exciting options.
IT’S FUN, GENUINE, THE SERVICE IS FRIENDLY AND THE FOOD IS GREAT. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
There is so much to choose from, from Sabanekh (Arabic quiche) to fatayer (like an open, light pasty) or even the Arabic pizzas.
But my mind was already made-up. A gentlemen seated outside, who looked like a regular, had just ordered the fava beans (£7.50) with flatbreads so I followed suite, and they looked incredible.
“I must go back, and soon, for more, more of everything. Put it this way I can see why people queue up for the privilege”
I was mesmerised by the puffy Turkish breads which I hadn’t had since my trip to Antep Kitchen up the road. Add in a bowl of babaganoush (£6.95) and the simply titled ‘courgettes with eggs’ (£9.95) from the all-day breakfast menu Why not?
The dishes arrived promptly and with a smile – the service is great here. And we dived in, in fact dived is too elegant a term, we engulfed the lot, ripping up the breads and dipping and scooping the delicious smokey dips and the piquant beans in that wonderful lemony herby sauce. It was so good in fact that we had to order another bowlful.
How we then managed to wander over to the pastry cabinet and choose a little selection I have no idea, but the sweet morsels on offer were so delicious and bursting with thin layers of pastry, green pistachios and sticky honey, that they were impossible to ignore.
All I know is that I must go back, and soon, for more, more of everything in fact. Put it this way I can see why people queue up for the Za’atar Bake privilege; it’s fun, genuine, the service is friendly and the food is great. What’s not to like?
Za’atar Bake is at 166 Cowley Rd , Cowley, Oxford , OX4 1UE. Go to https://zaatarbake.co.uk/Home.html for more details