Favourite Forks: London’s Food Scene is having a Middle-Eastern Moment

8 July, 2014

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Modern Middle-Eastern at The Palomar

The much-buzzed-about The Palomar is living up to its reputation and then some. Brought to us by Layo and Zoe Paskin, owners of The End; one of the biggest nightclubs of the 90s, The Palomar has got partying in its DNA. Expect to see staff look like they are having as much fun as you are.

Also owned by Israeli celebrity chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon, the food is vibrant, zingy and colourful, from a refreshingly modern menu that is influenced by the rich cultures of southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant.

Highlights include shakshukit, or deconstructed kebab, with minced lamb, sweet with cumin, creamy yoghurt tahini and flat bread – so moreish, you need plenty of the excellent bread to mop it up – Kuhenia, chopped beef fillet with bulgur, fresh with pomegranate, chopped tomato, mint and tahini, and Mz’uz’im, Moroccan-style sea bream with a punchy, in-your-face salted lemon purée, sweet oranges, bitter green olives and toasted almonds – a harmony of sweet, salty and sour. The raw bar, too, is not to be missed.

Warm Family Vibes at Honey & Co and Moro

Honey & Co and their delightfully genuine neighbourly feel has always been a favourite, and is a must-mention when discussing London’s Middle-Eastern moment. Their beautiful book, published just last month, titled Food from the Middle East, translates their restaurant’s sentiment and values very well – providing easy, accessible and extremely enjoyable no-frills food. Seasonal highlights are the peaches and goats’ cheese with roasted almonds, feta and watermelon salad, cured sea bream with pomegranate juice and cumin, uri buri prawns, Middle-Eastern ceviche with lemon, salt, chilli and olive oil and pomegranate chicken with summer tabbouleh.

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Honey & Co’s pomegranate chicken recipe from their new book tested at home 

Sam and Sam Clark brought their own celebration of all things Moorish to Exmouth Market in 1997 with Moro. Coming from the River Café they also brought the “family” vibe: every time I go there, part of the joy is feeling at home – the welcome, the staff are long term, the feeling of being looked after.  When you arrive, there are smoky wafts from the wood-burning oven that always stimulates the appetite, and the bread is the best in London: sour, with a chewy burnished crust that is utterly sensational.

A recent visit found us reveling in a grilled lamb dish with fattoush and walnut tatator. The fattoush was well-balanced – heady with za’atar, sweet with cinnamon and with touches of acidity from the sumac, also with pomegranate molasses and plenty of herbs. A bit of dish envy struck us while a neighbouring table enjoyed a tantalising seared sea trout with deep-fried cucumber chips with chilli and dill yoghurt. An innovative dish.

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Honey & Co produce at their little restaurant on Warren Street

More Middle-Eastern Moments in London

London’s current love of the Levant isn’t limited to these few heavy hitters. Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen is embracing the Middle-Eastern moment with a Lebanese set menu from today until July 27th. Harking back to Zeren’s opinion on the trend, Dock Kitchen cites the sharing element of the region’s food as a real pull. Though their menu of Labne, grilled squid, fried aubergine with taratoor and za’atar and grilled quail and lamb chops, I’m not quite sure I’d like to share.

Sabrina Ghayour’s cookbook published in May of this year, Persiana, provides endless inspiration for cooking at home, and Beirutian street-food group Yalla Yalla and Persian casual-dining spot Dindin Kitchen offers super accessible Middle-Eastern food experiences even in the most Tourist-trapped areas of our great city.

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Lebanese delights available for a limited time at Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen. Photo credit: Dock Kitchen