The Palomar, Soho, London.

With partners including people behind “hip” Jerusalem restaurant “Machneyuda” and  former London club owners brother and sister Leyo (of Leyo and Bushwacka DJ fame) and Zoe Paskin (former manager at numerous London restaurants including Hix and Hawksmoor)  it is safe to say that Palomar was always going to make waves on the Soho scene and having eaten there on my first night back in London, I can certainly see why.

 Arriving at around 8pm the compact restaurant – comprising a 16 seater bar top and 40 seater restaurant in the back – already had the kind of electric atmosphere most restaurateurs would kill for and we were more than happy to squeeze in across from the bar and wait for a seat to become available, especially once the charming waiter Jorge had not only managed to find a nearby spot for our bottle of “Trois Mats” Picpoul de Pinet (£25) but had also bought us a tasting portion of one of their signature dishes the “Jerusalem style Mini Polenta” a little saucepan filled with rich, creamy polenta topped with sautéed mushrooms, truffle and parmesan to stave off any hunger pangs while we waited.

The menu takes inspiration not only from Israel, but North Africa, Spain and the Levant as well and is made easier to navigate by its separation into different columns, from “Nishnushim” (snacks) to “Raw Bar”  and the fairly all encompassing “Stove, Josper, Plancha” as well as a daily changing mezze selection which we decided to start with, and it wasn’t long before  our table was dotted with little silver pots filled with all manner of vibrant dips, spreads and salads.

On our visit, the  “Daily 6” as they call them included a salad of roasted beetroot and fresh goats cheese, a pomegranate studded pot of barley and ricotta, homemade labneh – always one of my favourites – drizzled with olive oil and zataar as well as two types of aubergine; one cooked on the Josper, one “Simas way” and some spiced marrow, yoghurt and feta which was probably the one that disappeared the fastest as it was too good to leave alone for long. Also from the “Nishnushim”  was “Kubenah” or Yemeni pot bread, a sort of doughier brioche, with pots of yogurt and “velvet’ tomatoes on the side so good we seriously considered ordering a second before we investigated the rest of the menu in more detail.

Up next were two dishes from the raw bar; “Polpo a la papi” beautifully tender octopus tossed with roasted pepper “shushkeh” fresh chilli, diced chickpeas and bitter leaves of mulukhiyah and spinach atop a yoghurt base and “Kubenia” a Middle Eastern steak tartar of hand chopped beef fillet bound with crunchy bulgur, tahini and pine nuts and sprinkled with fresh herbs, diced tomato, red onion and gem like pomegranate seeds to finish. From the “Stove/Josper/Plancha” section we couldn’t resist a full portion of the “Polenta Jerusalem Style” which this time also included some extra asparagus nestled into the cheesey truffley polenta and finally the “Seared Scallops” on wilted swiss chard with earthy, roasted  Jerusalem artichokes, hazelnut tuile and a drizzle of cured lemon beurre blanc to finish.

We couldn’t leave without trying dessert and somehow managed to share three amongst us, Tahini ice-cream  which seemed curiously unchilled  and more like halava than icecream in my mind.  I far preferred the Labneh ice-cream which followed and the Chocolate Cremeux with puffed rice and sticky pomegranate molasses that we ended the meal with.

Having spent time living in the Middle East I am always excited when I see ingredients like zataar or tahini on a  menu and I was interested in how they made the most of these generally well known ingredients as  well  as lesser known ones such as mulukhiyah which I had never had raw before as it is usually made into a sort of viscous  soup or stew in Lebanon, although as I am not as familiar with Israeli food this may well be very common there. I really like what they are doing at Palomar, it is loud and noisy and a whole lot of fun and it was a little weird stepping back outside into Rupert street and realizing we weren’t in the Middle East afterall!

*Expect to pay around £40 a head although with our additional cocktails I think our bill may have crept in a little over that.

The Palomar. 34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN +44(0)207 439 8777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44(0)207 439 8777 FREE  

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