Restaurant Review; Tigris, Waddon

This article first appeared in the Croydon Citizen:

I’m sure my fellow residents of Waddon would agree we have always been poorly served for sit down restaurants within walking distance of the station. Many years ago there was a better than it had to be curry house on Stafford Road opposite the Waddon Pub that specialised in South Indian fish, but that went the way of the dodo in the mid 2000s, as it wasn’t really a traditional post pub curry house. Of course there are the good Cantonese / Sichuan / Indo-Chinese options in Wing Yip, but there’s nothing else.

Now we have something new, and it’s something really quite exciting.

Tigris appears to be a kebab shop, situated on Fiveways junction. Two donner / shwarma in the window confirms this first impression. A second look however suggests something else. There’s a fairly wide and deep seating area. It’s nice and airy, with sympathetic lighting, smart tables and cutlery. There is a a juice bar in the back. A sound system plays Arabic dance music. Then there’s the name. The Tigris is one of the world’s ancient rivers, the cradle of a great civilisation, home to imaginative Eastern Mediterranean style cuisine.

What we have here is an Arabic restaurant set up to look enough like a kebab shop to serve two markets. That it does both well is a Very Good Thing for my fellow waddonians.

I’ve been twice, both visits were excellent. The first I was on my own quite late on a Friday evening. There were a number of fellow diners, showing the varied ethnic and socio-economic mix that is typical of our borough. There was a relaxing hum of contented conversation. Everyone was enjoying their food. A good first impression.

The good vibe continued with the bustling, charming owner. I ordered and we chatted a little as I was born in the Middle East and have worked around it for some time. Very fresh tabbouleh was zingy with lemon. I also had bouncy, juicy kibbeh, which had a crunch of pine nut and subtle spicing. These were very tasty and and very authentic starters. Top quality Arab coffee with cardamoms finished what was a very exciting first experience.

My second visit was with my wife, our three year old son and our baby daughter. A genuine personal welcome was supplemented by real warmth with the kids.

The food was genuinely outstanding. A tarragon and sumac flavoured chickpea soup was a lovely amuse bouche. A mixed mezze plate was excellent. Silky, rich hummus and smoky, earthy babaganouj were complemented by great bread that was the perfect combination of fluffy and crisp. Crunchy salads with eye widening dressing that could be the dictionary definition of “fresh”. Felafel that were crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside, given a little extra by the addition of toasted fennel seeds.

We shared a mixed grill that was about as good as it gets. Lemon and sumac chicken wings with a BBQ char. Minced lamb kebabs with thyme and garlic. Chicken kebabs with a deep, rich marinade of cumin, lemon garlic and yoghurt. Bread soaking up the juices and a nice counterpoint to all the protein provided by BBQ roasted peppers, onions and tomatoes.

This is seriously good food, at a price a fraction of what one would pay in SW London Lebanese restaurants. When combined with lovely family run service, a light and comfortable atmosphere, great coffee and an unlicensed BYO policy, Waddon has got a real dining gem. Let’s hope we can keep it.


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