The Palomar – Jubilant Jerusalem Cuisine
The Palomar restaurant London boasts super-cool eclecticism and some of the best Israeli cooking in town.
Who ventures to Leicester Square on a Saturday night? Exactly: savages. Generally I have no truck with the sight of regional types getting overexcited on rickshaws, but I made an exception for Rupert Street, W1, last Saturday as I’d hooked a table for the much-talked-about spot The Palomar restaurant. I wasn’t missing out on this. Chef Assaf Granit’s other restaurant, Machneyuda, in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, is raved about by Israeli foodies, and its London outpost — 35-cover restaurant at the back; 19-cover raw bar at the front — is presently considered ‘hot’.
I enjoy the concept of ‘hot’ London restaurants because the title befalls venues for the most random and incoherent of reasons. A whisper here, an Instagram pic there, an earwigged Twitter dialogue, then suddenly a place is swamped by eager beavers. This leads to a second wave of foodie early adopters not being able to secure a table, being piggin’ furious, noticing that the PR for the restaurant is finding tables for celebs (who don’t eat anyway) and so declaring the restaurant ‘over’. Meanwhile, the chef is still peeling the delivery labels off his hobs. Oh, it’s all fun and games. People are so furious about Chiltern Firehouse right now it’s a wonder that doorman with the top hat at the main gate isn’t regularly pelted with eggs.
One thing I’d been told about The Palomar London that stuck in my mind was: ‘It’s a bit mad.’ Rumour said the place is noisy and that the chefs play loud music, that there is dancing in the kitchen, the waiting staff have their names written in the Palomar menu and the jars of Jerusalem-style truffle oil-laced polenta with mushroom, parmesan and asparagus are death row-dinner good. All of the above is true. The Palomar restaurant London is pleasantly bonkers. Not a relaxing setting — in fact, a bit like eating in a nightclub — but the dishes that appear, such as kubenia (hand-chopped raw beef fillet with bulgur and tahini), or the Persian oxtail stew with chickpeas and turnips, are heavenly in spite of the din.
The chefs do indeed yell and bang pans, and the music is loud. At one point I was eating my polenta — the second or the third jar I’d ordered — while half-dancing to ‘Electricity’ by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. More bonkers still, our table was beside a mysterious utility cupboard, which staff wafted in and out of all night. This made me quite hysterical after two Garden of Eden cocktails (rum, St Germain elderflower cordial, Velvet Falernum, maraschino, lime) and half a bottle of Château Fontarèche.
There were four of us sharing plates, meaning we could range right across the menu willy-nilly, savouring almost the lot. I can’t truly report a bum note. Fresh sweet Yemeni pot-baked breads plop out of the tin on to your plate with a side of tahini. ‘The Daily 6’ is a round of ramekins filled with various pomegranate-bejewelled offerings: Swiss chard with feta; a shock of red beetroot with goat’s curd; labneh; some sticky stewed aubergine. The pork belly tajine with ras el hanout, dried apricots and Israeli couscous is a mighty whack of sticky pork on a delicate bed of grains.
Out of the Palomar London menu, my two favourites may have been the shakshukit ‘deconstructed kebab’, a comforting plate of heavily spiced minced meat, yoghurt and tahini with pita croutons, or the cornfed chicken cooked in buttermilk with baby carrots and freekeh. Of the puddings, I’d opt for the chocolate cremeux, which is a decadent glut of puffed rice, pomegranate coulis, cocoa tuile and almond streusel. OK, it’s a souped-up Lion Bar, Israeli style, but one of my life rules is to never trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate a Lion Bar or, for that matter, a Double Decker. It’s the hallmark of a wrong ’un. We left The Palomar in a giddy manner as the chefs downed shots and banged mixing bowls with whisks to ‘Let the Music Play’ by Shannon. It would have been almost impossible not to.
The Palomar is located at 34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN
Isreali restaurant Soho London Palomar opening hours: daily from 12pm-2:30pm; 5:30pm-11pm
The Palomar booking system may be found on their website.