Archives for posts with tag: Israeli food

Where do you go when two Emirates pilots are arriving into London for one night only over Easter weekend and you want a good catch up?

Despite reading that this weekend tourist traffic into London was up over 60%, I somehow talked myself into thinking Covent Garden was the answer. It was primarily driven by my desire to go to The Barbary with these guys as a good sharing food option.

I met Captain P when his wife and I were setting up Taste of Dubai some ten years ago now. P tells me the event is going from strength to strength which is great to hear. And how fabulous that he could just WhatsApp me from afar and appear here in London for a catch up after too many years of not seeing each other. You know good friends when you can do that and just pick up again from where you left off.

When visitors come to London I feel a need to match the restaurant with the person to get a good evening together and my thinking was that Dubai has a lot of the top International chefs doing classic cooking but I was sure the Israeli food revolution had not got there yet. After great meals at sister restaurant Palomar, along with Bala Baya and a truly wonderful meal at Honey & Smoke, The Barbary was the last Israeli place to on my list to try. And Seven Dials is a good place to meet. Certainly that end of Covent Garden has developed massively with a wonderful international collection of one off shops to discover and it is easy access from Heathrow.

I was able to browse whilst I waited. I had a natter with the guys doing the Haeckels pop up at Beast, admired the Easter confectionery at Pierre Marcolini and popped into Bread Ahead’s Monmouth Street corner shop. Wandering the arteries coming from Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard is always entertaining with its unique blend of shops from across the globe.

The Barbary has been on my list for a while and everyone I know has enjoyed their meal there. Personally I don’t think the team have the same Israeli vivacity of Palomar but there is no doubting the food which is all made in front of you on their grills at the counter and with an interest and passion from the chefs that is undeniable. The Spanish Head Chef was happy to explain everything and from the very first bar snacks our dishes were delicious.

The pilot’s favourite was the black salmon dukkah which was prepared in the Israeli version of soy sauce and mirin with a sweet sticky glaze coming from a syrup made by infusing a sugar syrup with the burnt aubergine skins from the baba ghanoush and then sprinkled with dukkah. I loved the warm chickpea starter and everything was lapped up with bread from their tandoor oven which was also in the kitchen on show. The open flamed grills added flavour to all the main dishes and the extra swirls of pastes and dips and drizzles just took the flavour one step further.

This is delicious well made tasty food celebrating the best of that Barbary Coast. The food and service was generous, engaging and somewhere that the pilots declared they would come again. Now, where to suggest next time?

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What with one thing and another it has been an incredibly long week so this morning I allowed myself a lazy return under the duvet this morning to drink my morning tea and watch The Mind of a Chef on Netflix. This follows a binge watching of the latest series of Chef’s Table.

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I was hooked on Chef’s Table from the first series (especially Dan Barber and Massimo Bottura) enjoying the tour from the chef’s childhood and struggles through formative years into finding their raison d’être and becoming the admired chef they are today. Some of the later episodes have not made that connection as clearly as the early ones, but then I was blown away by the 60 year old Zen Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan cooking vegan meals for her temple community in South Korea. The peace, tranquility and connection with nature just took all the chaos of my week and transported me into a state of calm there and then. And believe me that was quite a feat given the week I had.

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The Mind of a Chef wasn’t a programme I had heard about but when I saw it featuring Gabrielle Hamilton, I thought I would take a sneak peak. I really enjoyed reading her book “Blood, Bones & Butter” and was gutted not to get into her restaurant Prune when I was in NYC. She is clearly not a woman to mess with and yet I love her approach to food. In the intro credits she says: “Its so good to be classic and not trendy” and I love that about her. The dishes are so simple and yet the flavour she extracts and the combinations she creates are just my type of thing. I have lots more minds to explore and suggest you dip in and out too.

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As I was having a lazy day, I thought I would create a nice healthy brunch and took my inspiration from our outing last weekend. We ventured to another Israeli inspired restaurant from an Ottolenghi protege, Eran Tibi. Whilst reviews have been up and down for Bala Baya, we really enjoyed discovering this alley under Southwark railway arches, just off Union Street and liked the open bakery at the back. These guys make the most delicious pita bread fresh every day and it came beautifully warm with our brunch choices of hummus, Israeli salad, Shakshuka and their open sandwich.

img_7793It was the Shakshuka that inspired me this morning with the deep rich tomato and pepper base flavoured with Middle Eastern spices and those perfectly baked eggs dropped in at the end. Now I have an evening with Gabrielle to entertain and lots more inspirational combos to rise to. Happy Sunday everyone!

 

 

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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