You know those meals you have where every single bit of food is exciting and new, and you just want to order every single thing off of the menu over and over again? There is a reason why The Palomar in Soho is the restaurant everyone is raving about at the moment, and why their cookbook is now at the top of my Autumn wish list (along with Diana Henry's Simple and Molly Yeh's Molly on the Range, obviously!) While it feels like Middle Eastern inspired food has been done half to death, The Palomar's take on modern day Jerusalem (heavy with the influences of some of my favourite Jewish cooking) is one of the best recent meals I've had in London.
For seating, there is a choice to perch along the open kitchen and bar, or to cozy up at a table in the small restaurant area at the back (where we sat). You have to book though, as is the curse of any super fashionable, super small London eatery. We got a lunch table on a weekday with a days notice, but had to wait until 2pm. However, you're just across the street from Cafe Monico, where we whiled away the waiting time at the bar.
To start, cocktails. I was taken in by the name of this tall grapefruit number: Au Revoir Shoshana. Who would not want a cocktail named after a quote from Inglorious Bastards, which is also a play on Jewish New Year (which it happened to be as we sat down to eat!) Needless to say it was as delicious as it looked, a lovely blend of gin, pink grapefruit, lemon juice, and a sumac tincture, topped up with soda water. In the background you can see the equally delicious (from the sip I stole) Daiquiri Nucleare: rum, Aperol, lime juice, Velvet Falernum and orange bitters, topped off by a creamy, Italian meringue-like coconut foam.
Now, I have tried to make kubaneh, a light, flakey, delicate Yemeni pot baked bread myself at home, and it was an utter failure. So, I really enjoyed The Palomar's utterly perfect version, brought to the table for us to tear and share with a dish of tahini yogurt (which we both skipped, the only thing about Middle Eastern food I don't like), and The Palomar's uber-addictive velvet tomatoes, the flavour of which is out of this world. I know the recipe is in the book, and it is probably going to be the first thing I try. We also ordered a fantastic burnt courgette tzatziki to go with our kubaneh, which I would really recommend adding to your table. We kept it throughout the meal, and it went beautifully with everything. This is the perfect sharing starter for two, perhaps with some olives on the side before you start on the bigger sharing dishes.
For the main event we went for two meaty dishes and a veggie side. He had the Shakshukit: a deconstructed spiced beef and lamb kebab with yogurt, tahini, cured lemon and harissa. Now, I don't really eat lamb, but this dish was amazing. Every bite left you wanting more, and it was so full of bright, more-ish and complex flavour. This theme of loving dishes you would not normally eat continues on into our veggie pan of Josperised Aubergine: aubergine with a feta emulsion, tomato, fresh oregano, crispy shallots and pine nuts. As well as looking really pretty, it was a really rich, complex, smokey dish, which my usually vegetable hating date loved, and went in for several servings of. That third dish you spy is something I'd recommend for any table of chicken lovers, ironed chicken thighs with za'atar & sumac rub, ambah yoghurt, Arak and orange braised fennel. Yes, it is everything you'd expect from the ingredient list, but it still makes for a really satisfying dish.
While another round of Daiquiris was happening across the table from me, I ordered a Bumblebee while we selected our desserts: gin, honey and ginger syrup, dry curacao, lemon juice and orange bitters. More light a classic cocktail, it was really bright and refreshing (and I think the citrus, honey, ginger and alcohol did wonders for my cold!), and I will admit to being more than a little bit obsessed with my giant ice cube.
We both went down the frozen route with our desserts. He had a beautifully creamy, light, and slightly floral orange blossom ice cream, made beautiful (and crunchy) with a piece of crispy kataifi, pulverised pistachio (they must have taken inspiration from baklava for this bowlful) and fresh orange segments. Next time I dine at The Palomar, I'm ordering this for dessert. I had the (also very pretty) Fizzy Sorbet: a lemon and bay leaf sorbet (I'm a sucker for any bay leaf infusion in a frozen dessert) with honeycomb pieces, a dusting of Maldon sea salt flakes, and a generous handful of fresh, slightly crispy micro herbs. This was so bright, fresh and interesting. Honeycomb and sorbet is an unexpected, but wonderful combination.
The Palomar really blew me away, and while I loved it for a casual lunch with a close friend, I actually think it would be really perfect for an intimate special occasion. The next time you have a birthday, or something like an exciting new job to celebrate, grab 3 or 4 of your closest friends, book a table well in advance, and order every single plate of food and every single cocktail to share!