The Fresser

At the table with Assaf Granit

It was worth braving the train for this dining experience


Freedom day is here. I won’t be whipping my mask off anytime soon, but I’m getting back into the outside world.

Post-lockdown, there are not many people I’ll get on public transport for.  Assaf Granit is on my green list though, and when an invitation to join him for the soft launch of his new chef’s table landed in my inbox, the date was in my diary quicker than Boris’s recent u-turn on self-isolation.

The unmissable event was at The Coal Office — the modern Israeli restaurant at designer Tom Dixon’s HQ within the sexy, retail and restaurant development, Coal Drops Yard, in Kings Cross.

The restaurant is part of Granit’s growing empire, which includes Jerusalem’s Machneyuda restaurant, which he founded with business partner Uri Navon. The pair now have seven restaurants in Israel, two outposts in Paris and two others in London — The Palomar and The Barbary — as well as this one.

Granit had flown in from Israel — for the first time since the pandemic grounded him — to join Exec chef Nitai Shevach behind the stove. (Shevach heads up Coal Office while Granit looks after the other restaurants in his culinary empire.) 

As at most of Granit’s eateries, you’ve always been able to perch with a bird’s eye view of the chefs at work. But here he wanted to create a more exclusive chef’s table experience. The action takes place around a huge granite bar into which is set a line of induction stoves. There's none of the theatrical sizzle and heat of the josper grill that you’ll find in some of his other kitchens, but still plenty of cooking action to feast your eyes on.

The menu was a 12 course marathon. Plates of delicious morsels so small they're gone in moments. The first time you realise how much you’ve consumed — is when it hits you like a lead balloon in the belly.  

My highlights included a sliver of sea bass with a salsa of elegantly teeny tiny diced cucumber on a chewy mini lachuch pancake on top of which was an airy cloud of Marmite aioli — (where has that been all my life?); And a melting square of aubergine with aubergine molasses and crunchy pine nut dukkah; plus, one of the desserts, perfect for a steamy evening — tahini ice cream with tahini cookies. Oh, and my own whole Kubaneh loaf (Yemeni brioche-style bread) with a dish of za’atar topped thick labaneh.  

They were flying the flag for Israeli wine — a different one with each course. Two from wineries based in the Judean Hills — Flam and Clos de Gat; and with the sweet courses, a personal favourite — passion fruit liqueur from Galilean vineyard, Morad.

Granit and Shevach also showcased some Dixon’s gorgeous designs.  One course served on a series of decorative door knobs  and the tahini ice cream arriving in a chunky mortar. The pestle had been used to crush the cookies to sandy rubble before covering them with smooth, creamy, halva-flavoured ice cream.

From the airy dining room on the first floor of the restaurant we could see the trains on one side and buzzy Granary Square on the other. Looking at the crowds sipping post-work, sundowners or watching a film on the steps of the outdoor pop up Everyman cinema you’d never know Covid was even a thing. And for the few hours I was immersed in the Coal Office experience, it wasn’t.

You'll have to wait a short while to get your bums on Tom Dixon's deliciously designed bar stools — they are launching in September. If Boris hasn't locked us all down again, get yourself down there.

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