It’s always interesting in my field of work to see how things cluster together to point you in a certain direction.

Brunch @tahinirest

Brunch @tahinirest

Last week was my birthday and I was lucky enough to be taken to one of the last days of the @tahinirest: a pop up established by an old colleague of ours, Josh. He took a big step last year taking his family on the most incredible journey travelling around Europe and the Middle East and was so inspired by the Israeli food in particular that he created a temporary restaurant offer on his return.

Over a really fabulous brunch, we discussed what it was about the food in Israel that had captured his imagination. He talked about the balance of fresh food, spices, and flavours: a combination of which he hadn’t seen much of back in London. In particular we chatted about to make labneh and how tahini really was most amazing almost undiscovered product over here. Whilst we know it to be a key ingredient in hummus, he told us how versatile it was and how it could be used in so many, both savoury and sweet ways. Apparently Yotam Ottolenghi had only that week declared it one of the best kept secrets that was about to emerge and I went away still relishing the combination that had been served that day.

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Fast forward only 4 days later and I was also being treated for my birthday – well a girl has a right to elongate her celebrations! This time, it was a chance to try The Palomar. This new eaterie has been getting rave reviews and whilst they are new to us, the Jerusalem food scene is only too familiar with this team. The Machneyuda Group now boast five outlets headed by the trendiest of Jerusalem restaurants and inspired by Iron Chef Assaf Granit and his two other Exec chefs: Uri Navon and Yossi Elad who combine Palestinian/Israeli food with European influences to huge success.

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When something is so well reviewed, I can’t help wondering whether it is just hype and in so many cases the actual experience is never quite so good. In the case of the Palomar, it is all true. As Mr Jones said – they had me at the bread. Pastry chef Yael really has brought a great intro to the meal with a must-have soft, buttery Yemeni pot baked bread. Yes, this is all about sharing although you might not want to let anyone else near the bread, but what we loved most was the use of those flavours that Josh had talked about just a few days earlier. The bread came with a grated tomato and silky tahini (what else) and parsnip crisps with labneh and chilli harissa. Early dishes from the raw section of the menu mixed fresh salads with herbs, spices and pulses with yogurt or homemade labneh dressings. The mains showcased the resident Josper grill to add a smokiness to the meat which balanced hot chilli and sweet fruits to create such tasty dishes. The chicken had crispy skin with succulent meat … the pork mixed sweet fruit and sour spice. The overall effect was just truly tasty plates of food and how often can you say that?

The only disappointment was the announcement that the tahini ice cream was off the menu. I had really wanted to see that sweet application to better understand the aforementioned versatility. Shame. I will just have to go back and try out a few more dishes. Next time I will risk a walk in on the bar and partake in some of that chef/customer banter that has been written up.

In light of the ever popular Ottolenghi and the much applauded Honey & Co., The Palomar just goes to prove that food of the Levant is the latest craze to try and I for one embrace it wholeheartedly. It is also well on the way to proving that tahini may well be the latest ingredient to look out for in the future.

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