Paul Dunn discovered a coruscating pop-up in cerulean blue when he dined at Ceru London
We could not have picked a colder February day in NoHo to try Levantine pop-up Ceru. However, owner Barry Hilton, formerly of Lebanese mini-chain Yalla Yalla, transported us from the bleak capital to a bright, beach-style mezze bar.
The bijou eaterie seats just 20 diners on yellow stools with décor recycled from their Glastonbury pop-up. Barry’s partner Patricia is front of house, eager to share her passion about Levantine cuisine, which covers a region stretching to Cyprus to Syria.
We perused a concise cocktail list with ingredients nodding to the Levant. The Musaafi mocktail: lime, pomegranate and passion fruit, was refreshing. The Passionista: vodka, passion fruit, vanilla and lime juice, well-executed and well-priced.
Omnivores, we let Patricia order on our behalf from executive chef Tom Kime’s menu (previously of the River Café). To start, a quartet of dips vibrant in colour and texture: purple pancar (beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and pistachio), beige Fadi (fried baby courgette puree with tahini, roast garlic, yoghurt and lemon). The orange one was our favourite, spicy roast pepper dip (chilli, walnuts and pomegranate molasses) and finally houmous topped with chickpeas, chilli and lemon. Service was rapid.
Next came roast fillet of gurnard (£9), oregano and chilli with lemon dressing and garlic chips (genius) – all about texture again. A crisp apple, pomegranate, mint salad (£6.50) with green chilli, lemon and roasted pine nuts was herby and piquant.
Ceru’s signature slow roast lamb shoulder had a twist (£9), the meat had the crunch of crispy Peking duck to go with its bounty of spices. The excellent baby spinach and labne salad (£5.50) was our sidecar, cranberries lending a long finish. One of 12 wines, Lebanese red Ixsir Grande Reserve revved up spiced ovine flavours.
To finish, the apple tea was very appley, befriending the warm pistachio cake (£5.50) with yoghurt, walnuts and poached apricots.
Ceru is open from early morning for juices and brilliant build-your-own breakfast wraps such as Murguez sausage, halloumi, tomato, cinnamon & chilli relish. Take-away wraps and salads for lunch are available too. What a find: a coruscating pop-up in cerulean blue here in wintry W1. They are about to announce a new permanent site, too. Yalla yalla.
Ceru Restaurant London, 29 Rathbone Place London W1T 1 JG
Words Paul Dunn. Paul is a lifestyle and sports writer, you can ctah him tweeting @twunnsy