I took JC features editor, Keren David, for lunch at Delamina, where I'd been invited by owners, Limor and Amir Chen. This is their second London restaurant.
I'd ruled out their first (East London-based) eatery — Strut and Cluck — for a visit. Shoreditch is a bit of a schlepp from the wilds of Hertfordshire where the Fresser household sits and the opening concept had been turkey-based. It has since evolved into a broader Middle Eastern-based menu including a range of proteins and vegetable dishes.
Marylebone is a much more achievable venue. Nonetheless, we arrived, on an unexpectedly hot Thursday lunchtime, glowing with heat and had to sit, fanning ourselves with menus.
The room is casual and airy, with a long bar. Calming neutral colours and simple wooden tables and chairs plus hanging plants give a chilled vibe — even if we weren't. Our friendly waiter delivered water and ice to help cool us down, and then explained how the menu (divided into three sections: vegetables; meat and fish and seafood) worked.
Not a natural food sharer, I prefer a old-fashioned 'starter, main course, dessert' format. Sharing makes me grumpy, hangry and ready to spear my table mate(s) with a fork. However, I went with it as I (a) wanted to taste as much of the menu as possible, and (b) needed to rein it in as I'm still weightwatching.
With little negotation needed, we went for Charred Cauliflower; Baby Aubergine smothered in black sesame, crumbled rosary goats cheese (I'm copying directly from the menu here, as I would describe cheese made from goat's milk as goat's rather than goats. Having seen it debated at length on Facebook by people who clearly have nothing better to do with their time - I was one of them — I know that it is a moot point and some even go for goats'. So is it cheese that belongs to the goat (goat's) or is it cheese belonging to many goats (goats')? How many goats does it take to make a crumbled rosary goats cheese anyway?)
I digress. Third pick was Pita Balagan - loving that name - which changes daily, depending on what the chef has available. Ours was a za'atar spiced pita loaded with spicy onions and feta roasted with honey, some frisée salad and concasse tomatoes. Quite the multicultural carb.
We elected for one main course to come with our mezze of starters: a whole fish (which will never win pick up any gongs at a beauty pageant) rubbed with dried lime and then charcoal-grilled (also not helpful for it's appearance) with roasted fennel, garlic and olive oil dressing.
No wine for us on a working lunch but plenty of iced water, as the air conditioning struggled to make any inroads on the hot air from the street.
Each starter was superb. The cauliflower, topped with juicy pearls of pomegranate and a slug of zesty creme-fraiche to more than match the rustic earthiness of this trendy veg. I'd have forked Keren for the last bite, but fortunately, her fork was trained on the baby aubergines. We cut the crispy pita in half, so no issues there.
The star of the show though was that whole-roasted fish. It arrived cleverly intact but wtih skeleton removed. Using my chef-training, I split the fillets between us. Keren's first mouthful sent her into revery. "It tastes like Israel" she swooned. "That took me right back to the port..." It was the Med in a mouthful, all charcoal, garlic and lime. Perfect.
We'd decided to share a pudding, choosing the Flourless Mousse Cake, which contained cherries and sported a perky salted sesame cracker that was a perfect foil to the sticky softness of the cake. The clever waiter delivered an extra plate — halva parfait, drizzled with date syrup and tahini and scattered with roasted almonds. That was far more in keeping with the flavours of our meal, and the heat of the day. Having protested we could not manage a mouthful more, we cleaned the plate.
My pomegranate and hibiscus tea was extremely girlie and delicious. Keren was equally happy with her green tea with mango rose. You're not there for the tea, but it all adds to the vibe.
Definitely worth a visit, come rain or shine — I'm sure it will give you a sunny glow even when more typical London clouds are looming. I may even pack my bags for a trip to Shoreditch...
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