Israeli cuisine whets West End taste buds

By Simon Round, September 15, 2011
Louise Noiman with Shimon Potatav and the London hotel’s Paul Bates

Louise Noiman with Shimon Potatav and the London hotel’s Paul Bates

Those who spent time on kibbutz in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s will have vivid memories of the food - tomato and cucumber salad, hard-boiled egg and cream cheese accompanied by dense, grey bread for breakfast and the occasional rushed falafel at bus stations around the country.

However, from unpromising beginnings, Israel's food culture has blossomed to the extent that the Israel Government Tourist Office now heavily promotes the sophistication of the country's cuisine.

The first "Taste of Israel" week is under way at the Intercontinental Hotel in London's West End. Until Monday, diners at its Cookbook Café are being offered a menu devised by chef Louise Noiman from Israel's Intercontinental Hotel.

Addressing the launch, Ms Noiman - who worked under Marco Pierrre White at London's Mirabelle restaurant - said Israeli cuisine was hard to define. "The things we eat are based on the things that we grow, but there is also traditional Jewish food and dishes from the Middle East like hummus and falafel. The fact that we have people from all around the world makes Israeli food very interesting."

Among her top recommendations are the new wines, which are gaining international recognition, and a variety of artisanal cheeses, including one wrapped in vine leaves, which are widely available in Israeli supermarkets.

Ms Noiman added: "If you asked me to name some uniquely Israeli dishes, I would recommend Jerusalem mix, which comprises every part of the chicken, including the heart and the liver, served in pitta with lots of onion. My signature dish, which is on the menu this week, is seared tuna with garlic confit and aubergine cream. It says everything about my home."

As well as enjoying the Israeli menu at the Intercontinental, which is not under kosher supervision, diners can browse a touring exhibition of Israeli art - Hidden Gems: the Colours of Israel.

Last updated: 3:20pm, September 15 2011