On the walls of the restaurant (which hosts a rotating dinner series by some of the world’s most innovative and acclaimed chefs) will be images by leading food photographer, David Loftus.
Loftus is behind the pictures in Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, and one of Oliver’s bosom buddies. He and Aharoni, the executive chef at Tel Aviv’s celebrated Alena restaurant at the Norman Hotel, were introduced in 2016 and immediately hit it off.
“He’s a gentle soul, kind and calm, and incredibly talented” says Loftus, who has been a frequent visitor to Alena to shoot Aharoni’s food. “Carousel was my wife’s idea as she felt it was the right place to showcase not just his food but also Barak as the genial talent he is.”
Aharoni‘s food is inspired by his Ashkelon childhood and Persian heritage. “At Alena we now try to give that kind of authentic family cooking a real contemporary edge,” he says, adding that Israeli chefs are learning to seek inspiration from home, and the traditions they grew up with. He has pioneered a new movement away from fussy, complicated dishes.
On the tables at Carousel will be a succession of dishes designed to capture that spirit, starting with what he calls the “market plate”— served like street food, huge loaves of challah, wild garlic bread, and foccacia baked specially by north London’s Karma bread — along with a dizzying succession of small plates to recreate the sights and flavours of Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market.
It’s also an opportunity for him to bring the flavours and excitement of the market to London — and he’s excited at the prospect. “It will be rustic, but in a refined way— we want to bring the feeling of Israel through the colours and the flavours — we’ll make it totally different to anything London has experiencd before.”
“The ‘market plate’ will get people sharing food right away, so they’ll immediately begin passing plates around the table, tearing off chunks of bread and talking to the people around them” he says.
Although Aharoni learned his trade in classic kitchens, at Alena, his cooking is led by the abundance and incredible quality of Israeli produce.
“We’re trying to really connect with the place where we live and have created and have the courage to say ‘yes, we are good enough’ and really showcase what we have.
“After all, Israel is this incredible combination of people from all over. From Europe, from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries; all living in this relatively small space where you can mix all kinds of heritage. And we’re surrounded by people who really understand food - especially the Arab world.”As well as the mezze, he’s planning to include his aubergine tortelloni, a signature of Alena’s menu back home, along with his grilled cauliflower steak with courgette and fresh herb puree. Committed to authenticity, Barak hopes to bring over some of his favourite produce from home. His team are trying to source his favourite Baladi aubergines, and the huge array of spices will come from his supplier at Tel Aviv’s Levinsky market.
“Nowadays it’s all about meeting suppliers and really listening to them — there is a new kind of connection and communication between chefs and people who really understand what we need. It’s unbelievable what they can grow with the right seeds and the right climate — I am constantly inspired.”
He is also looking forward to working in the kitchens at Carousel, where the team have been influenced by their constant collaborations with chefs around the world. “There is so much to learn from all that experience - how you use your produce, the way you work and showcase your vision, the food you cook”.
This is modern Israeli food — vibrant, exciting, generous and honest — the flavours of Israel, via Tel Aviv’s famous markets, brought to the heart of Marylebone.
Barak Aharoni’s week long residency, co-ordinated by Linda Krisman, and featuring an exhibition and special talks on food photography with David Loftus, will be at Carousel from 29 May to 2 June: details at: www.carousel-london.com