When Yotam Ottolenghi burst onto the food scene in the late 1990’s with Sami Tamimi it seemed that they would finally put Middle Eastern food onto the map in a modern contemporary way. Sure enough, their cookbooks, restaurants and style of food captured the British imagination finding just the right balance of flavours and styles that embraced but didn’t frighten off. We suddenly added pomegranate molasses to our store cupboards and for over a decade they were still owning that stage solo.

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In 2013 came class of Ottolenghi in the form of Sarit Packer and husband Itamar Srulovich at the tiny, but always busy Honey & Co. This couple seemed to build on the Ottolenghi formula with more heart and passion but still understated and easy to relate to. Traditional pastries like babka sat alongside sweet, spiced, fruity dishes and suddenly we were re-evaluating those Middle Eastern flavours again.

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Challah the Palomar way

Then came The Palomar. This team from Machneyuda, Jerusalem, brought the true vibrancy and energy that permeates an eating experience to the street of London. Many worried about its reputation for being more nightclub than restaurant but the truth is that the food spoke for itself. Finally we were moving on from felafel and kebabs and presenting food that had the colour, energy, flavour and excitement that should be coming from such a vibrant part of the world.

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Gourmet kebabs

In the past year some of the best food I have eaten has been in the same ilk. After Berber & Q helped us understand the versatility of tahini, so Le Bab made us reconsider the common kebab. My meal there with E was so simple, tasty and great value plus a chance to rediscover the whole Kingly Court area which is a hidden gem just above Regent Street.

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Carrot Borani

Then came my favourite of them all: Oklava. This small team have a great heritage behind all of them and have created the most wonderful place to eat modern Turkish food. It was everything I wanted it to be and much more. Supper with E again and a great discovery. We tried way too many dishes. E adored the crispy pomegranate glazed lamb breast with yogurt. I loved the chilli roast cauliflower but the surprise for me was the Carrot Borani. It was beautiful to look at and incredible to eat. Complemented with some really interesting Turkish wines it encapsulates this new style of eating.

Overall this up to date take on such an ancient cuisine is really encapsulating where food is going. It is adventurous, colourful, and tasty. It is also good value, is more vegetarian focused and creates a relaxed, often communal way of eating that is not a formulated concept, rather a modern way of eating. Cutlery is optional. Flavours are powerful. Eating is a great experience.

Next on the list? The Barbary. Sister the The Palomar. Bring it on!

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