The pitch for Palomar is a novel one for me, yes it nestles in the heart of Theatreland in Soho but what makes it stand out from the crowd is that it serves the nosh of ‘modern day Jarusalem’. The menu is inspired by ‘the rich cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant’. You see where I’m coming from right? And who isn’t keen to experience new tastes and pleasures? Palomar was opened in May 2014 by DJ Layo Paskin (I must confess to proudly owning some of his records) and sister Zoe, a former manager of Hawksmoor Spitalfields. They go casual with a zinc topped dining bar, seating 16 who have the theatrics of the kitchen to enjoy. Around the back, there’s dark wood panelling and vivid blue banquettes if you fancy it.
I was the first to arrive and as soon I stepped into the narrow passage behind the bar, I’m hit with the buzz of the atmosphere. Service was already in full swing even at 6.30pm, taking care of the diners bar side. When entering on the left you will see the drinks bar adjoining kitchen and the raw bar to your right. If you’re lucky the barman may give you a cheeky grin as he did for the camera!
For 6 or more, diners can have the Christmas tasting menu (£49), there were 6 of us.
Our beers of choice are limited to two only, and since the Alhambra Reserva 1925 (£4.75) is an unfamiliar brew, curiosity needs to be satisfied. Our little friend is brewed in Granada and comes with a deep crisp flavour with some citrus and caramel. There isn’t any lingering after taste which is a good thing as we need our palates cleansed for the food.
Wine wise we opt for a Moonbuzz Pinot Noir from the US (£38). It’s light and fruity which is a good thing too as we wouldn’t want anything to over-power the dishes.
Head Chef Tomer comes over to serve the amuse-bouche which I’m led to believe is a rare occurrence for him to do so by our lovely waitress from Mexico. It was fun and a nice touch to meet the hard-working folk who slave over those stoves for you. The little concoction made before our eyes is comprised of coriander, harrisa, cucumber, chilli and tequila. Made to be downed in one and swished around the palate for the full experience. It certainly evoked the taste buds!
Octo-hummous josperized octopus “steak” chickpea msabacha & cherry tomato confit. This was an off Christmas tasting menu dish, which the kitchen did an excellent job of deciding 6 tasting sized portions for us. When I saw it on the online menu I just had to try and boy it was good. The texture and taste of the hummous was champion – the octopus nicely caramelised & the tomatoes served a purpose by cutting through the richness.
Yellow fin tuna carpaccio – cucumber, pickled onion, chilli yoghurt, za’atar, pistachio, Freekah popcorn. First impressions were already sky high from the octo-hummus and this little tuna dish did a little dance too – it was excellent, everything on the dish worked harmoniously, all the textures were perfect too.
Jerusalem style polenta, with asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan truffle oil & crispy bacon (fresh truffle £6 supplement). This dish was a decadent as it looked, super rich, plenty of butter and nothing but groans of pleasure came from our table!
Cod & Clams in a bisque butter, bok choy, French beans, coriander & hazelnut tuile. Sadly this dish lost it’s way for me, the cod was dry, not an inedible dry, but dry enough to be dislikeable. The bisque was too butter rich and overpowered everything too.
Jerusalem Mix – Chicken livers, hearts & veal sweetbreads a la plancha with okra, tomato & tahini (£15). Another off tasting menu dish; animal guts may not appeal to the masses but I enjoyed this dish a lot, you could really taste the sear from the plancha and it’s a testament to the chefs playing to their strengths.
Pork Belly Tajine with Ras el Hanout, dried apricots & Israeli couscous (£16). Ras el Hanout is a popular spice in North Africa often playing a part in many stews and of course tagines. Again, it’s taken from the main menu and something I saw another table enjoying, so we just had get it to avoid food envy. You’d expect the pork with that level of visual caramelisation to have a real depth of flavour which it didn’t. However, it was cooked beautifully and whilst eaten together with the couscous and dried fruits it just worked, everything complemented each other.
Lamb Chop – parsnip cream, ‘festive’ freekeh, Middle Eastern Chimichurri. After cutting into the chop I realise why such a weapon of a knife is supplied as the flesh cooked to a rare pink was tougher than your usual juicy lamb chop. Tough in a good way from my palate’s POV as the flavour was intense and the texture was all bounce. The other diners would disagree due to theirs being on the fattier side.
Yaeli’s sweets platter to share. From the first shot below you’d see the Stilton cheesecake with apricot coulis, chilli & pumpkin seeds & caramel tuile. It tastes like exactly what it says on the tin, if you’re a cheese fan then go for it. In the middle it’s the Jerusalem mess, with labneh mousse, almond crumble, strawberries, lemon cream, elderflower, apple jelly & sorel. Labneh is a popular Middle Eastern cheese which is akin to what we know as cream cheese – and may guess, this is the pastry chef deconstructing the humble cheesecake. It was ok but not worth shouting home about. The crown jewell of the 3 is what you can see on the right – the carrot cake with raisins, coconut foam, butternut squash marmalade, walnut brittle & candied lime zest. A beautifully made pimped moist cake.
The damage: Expect to pay £70-£85 per head with drinks
The good: It’s a lively little place with skilled chefs delivering brilliant cooking in the most. Stand-out dishes included the Octo-hummous, Yellow fin tuna carpaccio and Jerusalem style polenta. I can see why they are a success and I would certainly go back for more to try out the Jerusalem inspired fodder.
The bad: Don’t come here for intimate dining experience and despite having air con it can get a bit stuffy in there.