“Yeah, we’re not calling it Israeli couscous at the moment, we’re going with ‘pearl'”. I’ve heard this said of a couple of menus lately, so it could be said its an inauspicious time for Palomar’s head chef Tomer to have moved over to London with his wife and four cats to open his first UK restaurant (after great success at Mechneyuda in Jerusalem). But he doesn’t seem to be having any trouble filling it up 12 weeks after opening. In fact, we have to wait an hour and a half for a couple of walk-up spots at the bar looking over the galley kitchen. But it worth it, and despite the lack of elbow room, these are definitely the best seats in the house.
Tomer serves a distinctive mix of Israeli-Palestinian, combining in Northern African influences, with a dash of Italian and even sushi. It’s a broad church, but clearly envelops the everything that he loves. This joyfully inclusive and unpretentious approach spills out across the whole evening, from the loud music to the freedom with which Tomer hands us comped titbits and shares with us his glass of Israeli chardonnay from across the bar where he’s checking plates as they go out.
We had already planned on ordering the polenta with asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan & truffle oil when our charming waiter gives us a free sample to apologise for the wait for our seats. It’s deliciously rich, piling on the umami punch – not merely shameless lip service to the costly fungus here. The veal sweetbreads with bourekas pastry and aubergine are perfectly seared and tender, and clearly a mark of pride for the chef, who I see stopping another chef to commend on the presentation of this dish. Unfortunately the ‘Super 6’ – a daily rotating sampling selection of starters – isn’t quite as strong as the mains, and we were too full to try anything from the Raw bar or dessert menu.
After the meal my instant thoughts are that this has been a great dining experience – but without fun interludes like Tomer’s silly yet actually very polished extensive drum solo across his prep bowls (he nearly studied music instead of working in a kitchen – and the restaurant is co-owned by Layo of Layo & Bushwacka 90s breakbeat fame), would it still be as memorable? Not every dish was incredible, though for the price it’s definitely worth trying a few things – and you may always get a few free extras too. I can’t help but feel like I’d like to skip over the imperfections as the sheer enjoyment of dinner at Palomar is something I’d recommend wholehearted as great fun.
Price: £50 for 2 inc wine
Address: 34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN