Put this on your restaurant bucket list | The Palomar, 34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN
We eat out a lot (obviously) and despite seeking out restaurants that we anticipate loving rather than just liking, a lot of the time we are left a little deflated. We’ve eaten at about 400 places since we started WLF four years ago and there’s probably only about 20 of those impressed us greatly. Every once in a while, somewhere like the The Palomar happens and takes our breath away. We had only planned to pop in to try the Persian oxtail stew for an upcoming feature and before we knew it, we’d ordered five things.
This tiny restaurant serves the food of ‘modern day Jerusalem. A menu influenced by the rich cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant.’ so says the website. The site also has little bios on the staff which is lovely, the pastry chef Yael is married to the head chef Tomer, we heard they despite working in the same restaurant, they are like ships passing in the night.
The Palomar is everything my dad hates in a restaurant, it’s small, noisy, chaotic and you can’t stand anywhere without being in someone’s way. But I fell in love from the moment I slid onto a stool next to Ade at the 16-seater shiny kitchen counter bar, directly in front of the chefs and the blazing Josper grill. There is 40 cover dining space too, but who wants to sit there and miss the show?
This place is unique in the way that not only is there a bunch of chefs squeezed into a space no bigger than a shoe box, there’s also waiting staff amongst them. It’s mad but somehow it works incredibly well, no one looks stressed, they appear to be having fun, yet to me it looks like my worst nightmare. I’ve sat at open kitchens before but this is something else, Ade and I barely said a word to each other all night, we just watched…
I suppose I should talk about the food! Oh god, basically it’s incredible. Little vegetable crisps in a upcycled sardine tin come as standard while you wait, these alone made us happy. We started off with the tin-baked Kubaneh bread £5 – warm, fluffy briochey type bread to be torn apart and dunked in the beautiful tahini and tomato dips – a shiny, bold and gorgeously silky pot of heaven. Food is served on mismatched floral granny plates, adding to the cosy feel.
I’m not a huge whitebait fan but Ade fancied the Whitebait Spiced Tempura Style with fried cauliflower and arisa aioli £10. I was put off these little fishes when I worked in a kitchen in a restaurant in Guildford as a teenager. Nothing bad happened (not with the whitebait anyway) it just freaked me out at the time that someone would want to eat a whole load of deep/fried frozen tiny fishes, eyes and all. But now I think I’m converted, these were golden and tasty and the fried cauliflower was a surprising hit with us both.
The Persian oxtail stew with herbs, barley and turnips £14 came in a massive pot big enough to serve four, unfortunately when the lid’s taken off there’s just a little serving at the bottom. It was a hearty sweet and comforting dish with my favourite stew ingredient – pearl barley. The Kubaneh bread is ideal for scooping up the last of it from the bottom of the oversized bowl and a glass of Rioja Ramon Bilbao LTD ’10 £6 a glass, was the perfect accompaniment. This is what winter is all about.
The special of Merguez sausages and tagliatelle with peppers and tomatoes £14 sounds pretty ordinary but it was so much more than that. Unfortunately despite mentioning my annoying problem with cheese to the waiter at the start, it still arrived covered in cheesy curls. Because we were in awe of the staff and fully appreciative of the pressure they’re under, we said it’s fine and Ade would have it to himself. But the sous chef (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jeremy Sheffield – the wicked headmaster in Hollyoaks) saw the look of disappointment on my face as I watched Ade dig in, so he knocked me up my own little helping. Thank god he did as it was stunning, this needs to be a permanant fixture on the menu.
We’d agreed earlier not to have dessert, but then we’d also agreed to just have the stew and a glass of red so what the hell. Wrong decision in sharing though, I don’t know what we were thinking. Malabi rose-scented milk pudding, raspberry coulis, coconut meringue pistachio crunch, fresh raspberries and kataifi £7 was delicate and light with texture from the meringue and kataifi (much like baklava) and sweetness from the coulis, we didn’t want it to end, firstly because it was gorgeous and secondly because it meant our Palomar experience was coming to a close.
Despite being bumped by customers as they walked past me as I ate and Ade not listening to a word I said, I’d had one of the best experiences in a restaurant ever. Perhaps being tired and stressed heightened my feelings, but as we sipped the last remaining drops of our Rioja, I felt a slight wave of emotion watching these incredibly hard-working guys doing what they do.
We reluctantly left to give our seats to waiting hungry Londoners and stepped outside to reality, both in agreement of how outstanding the Palomar is, especially as we walked past Bubba Gump on the the corner (the last restaurant we had reviewed). We awoke the following morning still buzzing and dying to do it all over again, I haven’t been this excited about a meal since Polpetto. Put the Palomar on your restaurant bucket list right now.
34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN
Telephone: 0207 439 8777
Book a table online
Opening times: Lunch, Monday to Saturday: 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Sunday: 12.00pm – 5.00pm
Dinner, Monday to Wednesday: 5.30pm – 11.00pm
& Thursday to Saturday: 5.30pm – 11.30pm
Reservations for the first sitting at the kitchen bar at noon and 5:30pm.
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square (5 mins walk)