If you like to eat out, there’s a lot to get your teeth into right now.
From Camden to the Emerald Isle (yes, Dublin now has a kosher eatery), new places have been popping up all over the shop, including a cute new (ish) addition to Golders Green’s parade of favourites.
Middle Eastern street food restaurant Mazal is an exciting launch for those living or working close to NW1 and adjacent London postcodes.
Opened last month by Israeli business partners Neta Nel Segev and chef Aviv Baum, the menu (Kosher Federation-certified) offers a true taste of Tel Aviv.
Although it is tucked away in Camden’s Hawley Wharf, it was busy even on a Monday lunchtime.
And quite right too for the menu offers more than shawarma (made from turkey for a fuller, but not so fatty, flavour) and falafel — there’s arayes (toasted meat-filled pita and one of my firm favourites), a very special sabich, lamb kebabs and steak. We were presented with the creamiest hummus and the best cauliflower I’ve ever (yes) tasted, topped with raw grated tomato and tahina.
Crunchy, craggy deep-fried potato wedges had steaming, fluffy interiors, and a punchy seasoning gave Israeli salad the wow factor. A cabbage salad tasted way bigger than the sum of its parts and the zhug was fresh and fiery, which is just as the chilli sauce should be.
Segev, whose previous restaurant experience includes relaunching Reubens and working at Soyo Diner, Café Royale and the Ritz Carlton group, told me the dishes are all made on site to order. Meanwhile, Baum’s glittering CV includes Tel Aviv restaurant icons Shila and Herbert Samuel.
The premise is high-end street food at an affordable price, and while £8 for pita or laffa filled with falafel and £11 for a shawarma is not bottom dollar, I’d say this premise has been met.
Many of the recipes — including the malabi and chocobanana pita desserts — originated fron Baum’s grandma, Mazal. And yes, the restaurant is named in her honour.
In NW11, Israeli and milky KLBD-licensed Beit Café has an equally knock out menu, but with a more heimishe feel. Founded by self-taught chef Emi Shamir who moved to London six years ago after seven in the IDF’s intelligence service, it was inspired by cafes she missed from home. “It taught me how to manage a lot of things at the same time” she told me, adding that her grandma’s kitchen and the meals she ate in the dining room of the kibbutz, near the Kinneret, where she grew up, were also sources of gastronomic inspiration.
I tasted the Israeli breakfast, a mini buffet of cheese omelette (you can have your eggs any way you like 'em), toasted challah, mixed salad, mild and creamy labneh (the only kosher labneh in north-west London, according to Shamir): egg salad made with sweet, caramelised onions; tuna salad packed with crunchy veg; dill and garlic cream cheese; an umami-level salty sheep’s cheese and olives. Plus, a Kilner jar of yoghurt, honey and Shamir’s homemade granola. That breakfast kept me going all day - although I did take away a few bits to snack on.
A greedier person might have also ordered the Too Much - a toasted Nutella/Lotus-filled croissant served with ice cream and fresh fruit. Shamir has also some cute twists on tradition: the New Yorker pairs lox and cream cheese with a round croissant instead of the normal bagel, and the Shuk serves the sabich ingredients in a giant bureka.
She also brought me a warm, flaky jachnun (layered pastry) that is part oftThe Yemenite breakfast, and from which I tore chunks to sweep up delicious harissa and cooling grated raw tomato.
Beit Café — beit means house — also sells a range of sandwiches, including schnitzel in challah, and a vegetarian version of the chicken roll that was ubiquitous on my recent visit to Israel: subbing in aubergine . There’s also a range of salads, soups and pasta dishes.
Meanwhile, watch out for the high-end pâtisserie pop-ups Shamir sets up in the city with pastry chef Talia M, a fellow sabra and a senior pastry chef at The Savoy. Her St Honoré cakes are works of art: puff-pastry bases with a choux pastry border, decorated with tiny choux buns, cream and fruits. Be sure to grab one when you can.
On the other side of the Irish Sea is Deli 613,which opened in Dublin in March. It’s the Emerald Isle’s first kosher venue and you’ll find it in the Chabad centre in Rathmines, run by husband and wife Rabbi Zalman and Rebbetzen Rifky Lent.
On the menu are a range of meaty and parev goodies, including salt-beef bagels, latkes, shawarma, falafel and filled pita breads. A slew of celebs, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, have already popped in for lunch and there's also a long menu of goodies to eat at home, including chopped liver and chicken soup. Hoping for a JC field trip so I can sample it soon.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be visiting more kosher eateries that have sprung up in the capital and beyond, sampling new food and drink and giving you the lowdown on the latest must-buy ingredients. Got something worth sharing? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org