The Fresser

Review: Carmel Fitzrovia — book a season ticket

There’s more to the Middle Eastern marvel than those famed flatbreads


Photo: Steven Joyce

Carmel’s fantastic flatbread totally lives up to the hype. The still steaming, slightly blackened puffy sourdough flatbread, glossy with spicy olive oil,smothered with rich, smoky matbucha (roasted tomato sauce), topped with a ball of cool, creamy burrata and drizzled with chilli honey was a flavour explosion.

It was literally mouth tingling and, after only one mouthful, the moment Mr P and I knew the Katz brothers’ latest opening is somewhere we’d be eating at again.

On a weeknight, despite the street outside (London’s Market Place — a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus) being almost devoid of passing pedestrians, the restaurant was buzzing. The feel — friendly and relaxed, noisy enough for atmosphere but not so much that we couldn’t hear each other. 

No mean feat when the dining room houses up to 95 covers; but the clever design, dividing it into smaller sections — including seats at the open kitchen plus an area that can be converted into a private dining room, managed to give our table at the front an almost intimate feel. 

The menu is the style that I’d ordinarily find irritating. Impossible to order without a steer on how to pick from the amorphous mix of snacks; mezze plates; raw and cured meat and fish; vegetables and salads; larger (main course sized) plates and those Insta-famed flatbreads.
We’d happily have worked our way through all five flatbread variations which, alongside the za’atar burrata included one with ricotta and spinach and another that paired cod’s roe with potatoes, rosemary, spring onions and tarama.

Executive chef, Jeremy Borrow, was on hand to guide us. I first met the immensely charming Borrow in 2019 when he returned to the UK after 25 years cooking in Tel Aviv. He’d been hired to head up the kitchen at Soho’s Palomar and his journey — from debt collector to chef — is fascinating.

Three years later, Borrow popped up at Carmel in Queen’s Park and has been cooking alongside chef Josh Katz (Carmel’s co-owner) ever since. The pair developed the menu together.

Readers may remember Katz as one half of the team (with Eran Tibi) who opened the restaurant at JW3 to rave reviews. It was an inspired choice of catering, and althought the restaurant is now defunct, both have gone on open a series of successes.   

On Borrow’s advice we ordered braised chickpeas — ultimate comfort food — topped with labneh-like xigalo cheese plus mint, tomato and chilli. Soupy enough to warrant a spoon, they can also take full blame for us ordering a second flatbread — this one simply served with a coating of grassy-coloured za’atar.

The chickpeas were balanced by a fresh and zingy chicory and walnut salad — the French classic combo more usually found with under a blanket of blue cheese, here given a Middle Eastern spin with feta and pomegranate.
Aubergine tortellini was suitably smoky and gone in minutes – both of us scraping to scoop lemony yoghurt from the bowl. No apologies for our choosing a second aubergine dish — similarly smoky — this time tarted up with tahini, shards of crunchy piquant sumac-pickled onion and juicy pomegranate arils.

Borrow had also recommended their cheesecake — a recipe he cooked during his time cooking at Tel Aviv’s Norman hotel. Creamy, light and topped with a cherry syrup it was another Israeli-influenced London cheesecake to add to my hall of fame together with the dreamy desserts at Honey & Co and Penelope’s at The Amano hotel.

We left with a goodie bag of leftovers and the knowledge we’d be back.
In my line of work, life’s generally too short for restaurant repetition, but for Carmel, I’ll make an exception.

Carmel Fitzrovia

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