28 Sep 2015

The Exhibit, Balham, London - Reviewed

Entrance to The Exhibit, Balham
Entrance to the bar and restaurant
The London reporter skips the rugby and tackles tapas style dishes instead at The Exhibit in Balham, SW London. Has anyone else noticed that rugby fever is in the air? It’s a brilliant excuse to meet friends for beer if you ever needed one, but if it all gets too much, just put your head down in the sand like an ostrich until it’s all over.

Exterior View The Exhibit, Balham

So on Thursday night, myself a dining companion headed to the Exhibit a well known restaurant and bar complex in Balham. You can’t miss it when you pull up at the train platform - it’s like a big black box with sporadic white dot matrix style writing spelling out the bar name.

We had a really warm welcome and headed to the restaurant upstairs above the main bar. It’s fairly light and airy with modern art on the walls by various artists.

Artwork in the downstairs of The Exhibit, Balham
Inside the downstairs bar
Now, the crowd weren’t just there for the dining experience. With three floors including a cinema, private bars, balcony and a huge undercover beer garden with heating, table service and rugby menu, this was definitely one of the more mixed-use spaces I’ve visited.

This is what we ate:
Pan-fried padron peppers with cured Iberian ham on grilled bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil.
There was definitely too much garlic for my dining companion, so don’t say that you haven’t been warned, but overall it was very tasty.

Photographing Iberian Ham on Grilled Bread
The London Reporter photographing the Iberian ham on grilled bread
Next up was the roast pumpkin and hazelnut salad and a wild mushroom and truffled potato puree. I thought the pumpkin salad was good but could have benefited from more herbs. Meanwhile the wild mushroom, and what I think was crispy onion, juxtaposed well with the smooth and creamy bed of mash (which I could have eaten on its own).

The waiter then brought out 4 mini chilli pork tacos served on a long plate. The pork was in a smokey sauce and as nice as they sounded, they just didn’t quite hit the spot. Part of me thinks pulled-pork would have been amazing and would work so much better here.

At this point we had been told that the chef had been on his travels so it was easy to see where the Mexican inspired flavours had come from, although not always the combinations!

Collage of an evening at The Exhibit, Balham
A snapshot of the evening
Fried chicken was up next with toasted pineapple, chopped cashew nuts and gooseberry ketchup. It was certainly a unique combination but I wasn’t sure exactly where the inspiration for this dish was coming from.

The real star of the dinner was this: braised ox cheek nestling on a thick creamy gooey macaroni cheese dish. This was without doubt THE signature dish. The braised ox cheek was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the mac’ was just plain moreish. You’d come back for this one alone and not necessarily to share.

For pud, we shared the almond tart with clotted cream. Again, this was a real crowd pleaser and disappeared in moments.

What else did we do...
We enjoyed seeing the lovely bar area downstairs. It was dimly lit and featured a giant fish tank - apparently quite popular with Balham’s yummy mummies and their children by day.

We then had something quite special to finish. A killer Porn Star Martini cocktail using their own vanilla infused vodka - OH GAWD that will take some serious beating.

Address: 12 Balham Station Road, London SW12 9SG

Disclaimer: We were guests of The Exhibit. All thoughts are our own.