The Palomar was the ‘it’ restaurant of late-2014 – run by two Israeli-born nightclub entrepreneurs, it quickly garnered a top-notch reputation as an innovative and exciting place to dine, and I’m kicking myself for not getting my act together and checking it out sooner. Because WOW. Just wow. Here’s a quick run-down to explain my reaction…
We arrived at 5:30pm and clambered onto bar stools at the chef’s table in the Kitchen Bar – the best seats in the house. An early dinner time, perhaps, but the first service is the only time you can book for – after that the Kitchen Bar switches to walk-ins only, and you definitely do want to be sitting up at the 16-seat zinc-topped bar.
There is a restaurant out the back too, but it’s the energy of the chefs as they work, tease and chat that adds to this experience. Commands shouted in Yiddish, “Yes Chef!” responses, and complementary dishes and tasters direct from the chef, Thomas Youell – we were even sharing a Lemon Fizz cocktail with him at one point!? The staff kicked off service with a blessing and tequila shot (!), and then snapped to it.
It’s a menu of sharing plates from modern day Jerusalem (ranging from £5 to £18), pulling influences from southern Spanish, northern African and Levant cultures to create an utterly unusual menu that I couldn’t wait to dive into.
Head chef Thomas was keen to guide us in our choices, and did so with such charm and passion that we put ourselves entirely in his hands and ordered as we were told. He then proceeded to serve us and talk us through each and every plate placed in front of us.
A loaf of buttery brioche-like Kubaneh bread from Yemen – freshly turned out of the tin pot it was cooked in, and served with tahini and ‘velvet tomato’ dip – was totally delicious.
And then the dishes just kept coming: We were gifted a juicy Fattoush Salad, then wowed by a tasty Salmon Tartare from the Raw Bar “with aubergine two ways”, and we clashed forks fighting over the Polenta, served “Jerusalem-style” with asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan and truffle oil. Phwoar.
I felt for the frazzled chef who was manning the heat-belching Josper grill, but the food she was turning out was quite something. The Octo-Hummous dish of octopus ‘steak’ and chickpea Msabacha was unusual, the Shakshukit ‘deconstructed kebab’ was amazing, and the generously-proportioned Pork Belly Tajine blew my mind, with it’s melt-in-the-mouth meat, dried apricots and Israeli couscous. (Yes, pork and seafood in this Jewish kitchen – and dairy in the mix too – so no, it’s not kosher.)
Dessert was a Malabi rose-scented milk pudding with a more-ish coconut meringue pistachio crunch on the top, and a taster of the Labneh ice cream on the house – both fantastic.
I return again to the importance of sitting at the Kitchen Bar… An atmosphere and ‘buzz‘ is very difficult to get across in words, however, so I’m hoping this little film I put together will do the trick in convincing you to GO GO GO. Or in Yiddish: איר מוזן באַזוכן 🙂
With full marks for food, and extra bonus points for atmosphere and character, The Palomar is enlivening a dull West End street with Israeli party vibes, and I’ve already booked in for round II!
Meal for two (including service but not drinks) is around £70.
Photos by the incredibly talented Helen Cathcart and myself.
34 Rupert Street, West End, W1D 6DN