The Palomar has been firmly on my London restaurant bucket list for a while now, but it’s hard to get a reservation at the popular Soho restaurant. Ever prepared, I was keen to finally pay a visit and booked two months in advance for my birthday lunch.
The restaurant serves food from Jerusalem influenced by a rich tapestry of cultures including Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant. I’ve mentioned my love of Israeli food before in my posts on Jago and Nopi and as my sister-in-law lives in Tel Aviv, we’ve had the opportunity to try some great restaurants there. Though I’ve visited Jerusalem a few times I’m yet to try celebrated restaurant Machneyuda, considered by many to be the best restaurant in the country. But dining at The Palomar allows Londoner’s easy access to the renowned food cooked by chefs from the original restaurant.
I’d already heard tales of the Kubaneh also known as Yemeni potted bread served with a choice of tahini or a tomato infused oils. The bread was light and fluffy, a slightly sweet sort of a cross between a croissant and brioche. Mr S and I devoured it quickly though I wish I’d save some to have with the rest of the food!
The restaurant has a sharing concept and we ordered a number of small dishes between us. Our beef tartare chosen from the raw menu was quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had; not only was the rump steak perfectly prepared but I loved the tomato vinaigrette and the contrasting textures from the toasted almonds and Jerusalem artichokes. The pairing with burnt aubergine cream was a beautiful combination and finishing it off with jalapenos gave it that final punch so that the whole dish was a flavour explosion.
As I expected the restaurant itself was packed with people and it had a lively buzzy atmosphere. As you enter you can witness the chefs at work in a busy open kitchen where you can sit at the bar and interact with them or as we did, have a more intimate table at the back on the comfortable blue leather banquettes. A friend told me that if you sit at the bar, the chef will give you other bits and pieces to sample, and though we didn’t have that experience, we were given a tasty sauce pan of cous cous with harissa and pomegranate seeds to try.
We decided to order the two specials of the day, first this perfectly cooked langoustine served with a beautiful spicy chimichurri sauce. It was that moment I wished we hadn’t gobbled the bread so quickly, I would have loved to mop up the sauce.
Next these fish cakes made of combination of cod and hake and served with a salsa, the flavours were delicious but I found the texture of the cakes little grainy. Though I was pleased to learn that all fish is sourced from Britain and from sustainable stocks, while meat is also local and organic.
From the hot selection, we chose the cauliflower ‘steak’ as the dish had a been recommended to me. And I’m so glad it was as it may not have occurred to me to order cauliflower as a main course, but this cauliflower was rather a revelation. Perfectly cooked so that the florets are soft and melt in the mouth but with just about the right amount of bite, it’s served with a cured lemon butter which has been prepared on the Josper grill. Coupled with it is a creamy labneh made in-house, the most delicious slightly caramelised sweet onions and a topping of almonds. This maybe a vegetable but it’s certainly not diet food, it’s actually rather rich and creamy and just bursting with flavour. It’s unique dishes such as this that have made The Palomar so wildly popular and led to accolades such as the award for best restaurant in Observer Food Monthly, Tatler Restaurant of the Year and a Michelin Bib Gourmand two years running.
Our final dish was hake with perfectly cooked flesh that fell apart beautifully in the tines of our forks, the soft flakes beautifully contrasting with the lentils, olives and tomatoes. There was a great whack of garlic in there too, which certainly reminded me of some of my favourite fish dishes in Israel. Though our initial plates were small portions, we had ordered the right amount, the rich, creamy sauce meant our appetites were well satiated and even though calories don’t count on your birthday we decided to skip dessert and head for a more waistline friendly frozen yogurt down the road. If you would like a dessert tip though, I’ve been told the Malabi rose-scented milk pudding is incredible, perhaps I’ll have to return for it…
The Palomar really deserves the reputation that it has built up, it’s a great friendly restaurant serving dishes that are truly unique and incredibly flavoursome and it’s very reasonable value too.
34 Rupert Street
0207 439 8777