So, when is the best time to visit a restaurant hotspot? If you’re in the know, it’s probably best when the restaurant is on the way up with everyone striving their last sinew for the Michelin star and when prices are still reasonable.
The Palomar, serving the food of modern Jerusalem, has now been winning accolades for 2 years. Despite being on my radar during this time, I hadn’t managed a visit and rumours from foodie friends suggested it wasn’t quite as good as previously. But the only way to find out was to pay a visit.
Lunch at the Palomar was my treat to myself on my birthday in October. I couldn’t get the online reservation system to give me a table and therefore sent them an email, which they confirmed that morning.
I chose to sit at the 16 seat zinc Kitchen Bar at the front of the restaurant, where I had a front row seat to seeing the chefs at work. I love chef’s tables and kitchen counters where you can see the action and thank your lucky stars you’re not a professional chef! On my visit, there were definitely a few newbies in the kitchen getting a tough time from the chefs but nothing was allowed to leave the kitchen before getting permission from an old hand. I also had one of the owners from Jerusalem pointed out to me – he was keeping a close eye on things from the end of the counter.
The menu is, as expected, very Mediterranean in style and they cite southern Spain, Northern Africa and the Levant as influences. However, when questioned about pork belly on the menu, my waitress confirmed that The Palomar isn’t fully kosher, unlike their sister restaurant in Israel! The dishes look like small plates but be aware that they’re generally very rich.
I started with some fresh oysters, which were given minimal adornment. A touch of lemon to counter the saltiness of the sea. Perfect.
Next up was one of their signature dishes – Shakshukit, essentially a deconstructed kebab with the mince meat, yoghurt, tahini, the ‘4 tops’ and Yaeli’s pita all served in a plate. Once again, great bold flavours but I didn’t quite get how deconstruction enhanced the dish.
My final savoury dish was the pork belly tajine. Being a huge pork belly fan, sadly, this was the weakest dish. Pork belly responds best to a hot roasting to get the skin and fat crispy or very slow braising to render that fat into unctuous moistness. The pork belly here was a little dry. Perhaps, it’s an ingredient they don’t work much with.
I was persuaded to have a dessert and it gave them an opportunity to stick a birthday candle into my Malabi, a rose-scented milk pudding topped with raspberry coulis, coconut meringue pistachio crunch, fresh raspberries & kataifi. A good subtle palate-cleansing end to the meal.
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Ambiance: ★★★★☆ VFM: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
Price: Small plates prices mean that you’ll get best value if you dine in a group
34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN