"Malaysian restaurant. Jazz club. Art gallery. Bar. It's all here..."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
My friend asked me to find a jazz club near the South Bank and when I did a search this place came up in a list of “top 10 jazz clubs in London”. I was intrigued as I hadn’t heard of it before. Turns out that it only opened in October 2012…
Anyway, a few minutes’ walk from Waterloo there is a small frontage with a couple of optimistic tables outside. When you enter there is a small receptionist desk to your right and a very smart larger reception area to your left – looking a little like a hotel front desk.
However, once you climb the Paul Smithesque-striped carpet stairs (with glass sides) you enter a large airy room – the Conservatory-like feel supported by the massive overhead glass ceiling and the white iron table and chairs. In daylight it’s really bright and as the light fades it becomes more intimate as tea lights adorn the tables. The walls are amazing too – there’s all manner of art works from a local college. They although students to show their work – and sell it.
Talking to the owners it’s a real family affair (husband does cocktails, wife plays piano and sings, sister also plays, mum is the Malay cook and also sings). Between them they’ve owned and managed jazz clubs in Islington and the Old Kent Road and even did a stint at Ronnie Scott’s.
They appear to focus on three things – music, food and community. They all take great pride in telling you about the weekly and monthly charity gigs they run and all the great causes that they have supported. And whilst they obviously want the place to be a success, they are keen to maintain its local, community feel.
Around us are an eclectic assortment of people – student types, couples, small groups of blokes, some overseas visitors, a couple of more traditional looking jazz types and a bunch of folk who’s look more at home at an urban gig. We’re told that solo diners are also quite common.
The service is attentive. We started with some drinks. My colleague requested a Virgin Mary - £4.50 (which is a shame as the cocktail list is amazing – I even learned that “mojo” comes from the African for “little spell”) and this turns out to be a little work of art in itself – adorned with lemon and crushed black pepper. She has two.
Whilst the spirits list is impressive – seven rums, six vodkas etc – the wine list is little more restricted. We choose a bottle of Viognier at £21.50 which goes down rather well.
Malay food is explained to us – it’s mostly about ginger, chilli and garlic. We are also told about how the casual food is a central draw to the various musicians who come to the place – “Mama likes to feed people and it kind of turns into a front lounge”. We decide to share a portion of chicken satay £6 (as they are out of our first option of chicken wings £6). The four skewers are tiny but the peanut and two chilli dips are delicious.
The Udang Lemak (£9) – King prawns marinated in turmeric, shallots, ginger, coconut sauce with lemongrass and galandang is fragrant and tasty although with just five prawns I was glad of the large bowl of steamed rice sprinkled with spring onions (£2.50). The Nasi Goreng (£8) – vegetarian traditional Malay fried rice with vegetables was served with a pot of coconut sauce on the side as requested. However, the Mee Goreng (£8) – stir fried noodles with chicken, bean sprouts and soy sauce and a fried egg on top was the star of the food show. The bill for the three of us seemed reasonable at £81.56 (inclusive of service).
With regards to the music we were told that “every night is different”. There’s a student band from London Contemporary College on Monday nights, Tuesday it’s Spectrum – a string quartet, Wednesday the Nolias in-house band, Thursday it’s Zoe’s (Nolias’ daughter) band, Friday the Alex Hatton Trio and Saturday there’s a saxophonist between 2pm and 5pm and variety evening. They have also staged Tap Jazz (yes, a tap dancer does their thing along to improvised music) evenings and plans to introduce Brazilian bands and Flamenco nights. That’s varied. While we are eating the music playing in the background is just about audible – we detect Roy Ayers.
So at 9pm we take our drinks downstairs into a suitably womb-like (red walls and red tea lights on cabaret style tables) room with a small stage. We’re told that the evening is actually more a show case for new young talent (the owners tell us excitedly about a recent Warner Brothers contract for a young band who played there) and I have to say it’s more rap and urban than jazz. There’s a young lad from Swindon (“I usually do grime”) who does a soulful tune called “Letter to music” – about his ex. The young chap playing guitar harmonises well – he’s a fabulous singer. Then they invite a girl called Georgie onto stage and they mess about musically with a sunshine theme. It’s a kind of Eminem-Craig David-John Legend mash up – but I’m no expert on this type of music. OK, it wasn’t jazz but it was a vibrant, passionate live music event and we were happy.
Zolias is open between 12pm and 1am each day but closed on Sunday. Oh – and I nearly forgot to mention the art gallery in the basement. And don’t forget to visit the loos – the wallpaper is made up of black and white pictures of the jazz greats. I suggest you get along while it still has its cosy community intimacy as I suspect they will very soon be packed out every night.
KimT reviewed Nolias 11 on Thu 04 Apr 2013