Rupert Street- it’s not really Chinatown, not really Soho, not quite Piccadilly. Explaining where Palomar is, is a bit like trying to explain the menu. It’s modern Jerusalem food, which has a bit of Spanish, African, and Middle Eastern influences. There’s raw dishes, there’s comforting hearty dishes and there’s dishes with ingredients you’d never think of putting together- think beef with a blubbery madeira cake. Palomar manages to be entirely familiar and unexpected at the same time. And always brilliant.
The restaurant opened last year and has been packed ever since. There’s a small number of reservations in the back dining room (good luck getting one of them- you’ve got more chance at Dorsia). The best thing is to wait for a seat up at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. Unlike the calm order of Bocca Di Lupo or Barrafina, which share a similar design, Palomar has an infectious buzz. This is helped by the excellent staff, who will sing along to the Bee Gees and have a shot with you, and also by the simple and brilliant cocktail list that is far too easy to work your way through. There’s a real authentic passion here which shines in the cooking and service. It feels like the chefs or owners have grown up eating these dishes, and have just refined them a little. The menu is always fresh and exciting, but also feels so homely. You really can’t have a bad meal here.
To start things off some kubaneh (luckily the dishes come with descriptions)- a duvet of warm brioche-like bread served in its baking pot with tahini and a tomato dip to mop up. Then from the raw dishes the beetroot carpaccio had a clean fresh taste, and the beef tartare is the best I’ve had. There was a real zing to the flavour, and an added crunch from crispy Jerusalem artichokes.
What followed was a string of dishes that you wish weren’t designed to be shared. Butternut squash risotto was rich and creamy, with crispy sage leaves and crushed pistachios giving an added texture. Jerusalem Polenta was an indulgent blend of asparagus and parmesan with a hint of truffle oil. A pork belly tajine with apricots and ras el hanout was another comforting winner. Best of all was the Shakshukit- a deconstructed kebab- it was a sloppy delight- mopped clean with the pita. A Jerusalem Mess made up of lemon cream, almond crumble, strawberries, apple jelly and sorrel, is one of the most refreshing desserts I’ve ever eaten. A perfect end to the best meal this year.
There are plenty of great small-plate restaurants in London, especially in Soho. Barrafina, Polpo and Bocca Di Lupo are the longstanding kings, but Palomar may well have taken their top spot. It is the most exciting food I can remember having in London. The staff are so good that every owner should take his waiters here so that they can see how it is done. A faultless meal, even if I have no idea how to describe what or where it was.
34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN