John Gregory-Smith loved his Israeli feast at The Palomar restaurant in Soho
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Having just returning from the most incredible long weekend in Jerusalem, where I wandered around the old city, marvelling at the sites and eating everything at the Mahane Yehuda Market, I ended up having the most rocking dinner at Machneyuda, the hottest restaurant in town, where head chef Uri cooked the most insane meal for me. On my return I was utterly thrilled to have lunch at The Palomar, their sister restaurant conveniently located in Soho.
Although much smaller, The Palomar had the same energy and buzz as Machneyuda. The chefs wore hats (its either that or a head shaved in Jerusalem), music was playing and the food was incredible. A smart little bar, with an open kitchen and raw bar that had seats for 16, led through to a little restaurant. It was art-deco-cool and the best thing was sitting at the bar and watching the chefs do their thing.
I went with my dad on a Friday lunchtime. From the raw bar we ordered the fattoush salad (£8) that was made with a vibrant mix of cherry tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, crispy bread and crunchy almond slithers. The salad sat on a few quenelles of joyously creamy labneh that had been drizzled in zaatar oil and the whole thing dressed in a tart sumac dressing and a salty olive tapenade. This is why the food of the Eastern Med. is so amazing; fresh and zingy, beautifully seasoned and all the right textures. Next spongy soft slices of octopus (£8.50) mixed with chickpeas, tomatoes and peppery mulukhiyah leaves, came on a silky smooth slick of rich tahini yogurt.
For our mains we ploughed into a glorious deconstructed minced lamb kebab called shakshukit (£8.50). This hot mess came in a small dish covered in 4 sauces; olive tapenade, fresh watercress pesto, preserved lemon paste and a tahini sauce, and an extra drizzle of harissa oil. It was insanely good. The meat was fatty and juicy and the sauces all worked beautifully together to make the ultimate party in your mouth. Pork belly tagine (£12) with ras el hanout was a bit dry and ordinary, although the Israeli cous cous that came with it was wickedly rich and meaty. Kurdish style mussels (£11) were juicy and lemony, cooked in a light vinegary, buttery broth, with courgette slithers and swiss chard.
We could have ordered way more off the menu, but felt desserts should be given a go. Their little bread loaf shaped basbussa cake, soaked in cardamom and star anise syrup, and served with an orange syrup, bitter kumquat jam and whipped yogurt looked as pretty as it tasted and a three tiered chocolate dessert, which was a bit like a very refined chocolate jammy dodger, with a dark chocolate base, crispy layer and a rich mouse topping that sat on pomegranate jam puddle, with roasted almond bits was deliciously wicked.
For more information visit thepalomar.co.uk