Palomar

Address: 34 Rupert St, Soho, London W1D 6DN
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Saturday
Meal:  lunch
Price: ££
Rating: 8.5/10

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.54.22There are a number of restaurants in our top ten Hall of Fame that are serially up for eviction. At least one will be flung out into the cold this week, to be replaced by a favourite tapas restaurant of ours. Palomar – an Israeli-fusion restaurant – is not amongst these names. It is one of a select few that sit snug and contented somewhere in the top five, an accumulation of goodwill buffering it from relegation.

Nevertheless, like a boxer who is only as good as his last performance, each of our restaurants must defend its reputation on every visit. With that in mind, we dropped in on Palomar last week, weaving through the heaving, surging mass of humanity that clog China Town’s streets, until we found ourselves on Rupert Street, on the fringes of Soho. As usual, Palomar defended its status with aplomb.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.49.58We started with the mandatory pot-baked bread that comes steaming out of a tin, soft, fluffy, as light as air, with a small bowl of tomato and tahini to dip it into. I could eat this bread all day long, but I have made it a new dining resolution to not feast myself into a coma on bread before any other dish arrives, and so I satisfied myself with half a loaf, my partner in culinary crime devouring the rest.

Next to touch the table is a small bowl of falafel, little nuggets of chickpeas suffused with chilli and herbs, sat in a shallow pool of cooling yoghurt. I’m normally not a fan of falafel, finding it as dry as the desert climates from which it originates, but these were a powerful exception, rich and succulent.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.50.33With the preliminaries complete, we tucked into a pleasant, ocean-fresh sea bream, which came on a bed of green beans in some herbed-oil. The fish was mild and delicate, the flesh pulling off the bones easily. We then helped ourselves to the poetically named Tree of Life, a terrifyingly huge head of broccoli, which was indeed the size of a small tree, and came with feta and tomatoes. It was the sort of thing I imagine a vegetarian might dream about, thick and healthy, delicious from top to bottom, without one sentient creature harmed in its creation…

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.50.11A ‘Persian Pappardelle’ was a pleasant surprise. We live on the edge of Borough Market now, and take the steaming offerings of Padella as the gold standard of pasta in London, but I can’t deny that Palomar’s Persian Pappardelle was every bit the equal of anything I’ve been served in Padella, which the exception of its other-worldly Carbonara. The pappardelle was firm and thick, the lemon sauce subtle and sharp, parmesan grated over the top, and some mange tout crisp and fresh, not a string of starch in them. This was probably the highlight of the meal.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.54.11As all this is being served, the restaurant is a whirling dervish of energy. The open kitchen runs like the most chaotic of armies, the chef bellowing orders, with his motley crew of underlings (one with an enormous butcher’s meat cleaver tattooed on her thick forearms) replying in unison, “Yes chef!”. The clatter of pots, the crackle of flames and the hiss of red-hot pans plunging in cold sinks forms the music to your conversation, as waiters and waitresses tap their feet, bob their heads and chat to the diners. This is certainly not a place to have a long overdue catch-up with an elderly relative who is hard of hearing.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 17.50.22By this stage I was starting to flag a little, but since the final dish was a Shakshukit, a sort of deconstructed kebab, consisting of beef, lamb, pistachios and pine nuts, I made a special effort to locate some unoccupied chamber of my stomach. It was a struggle, but I did it.

Twenty minutes later, we limped out into the sunlight, the echoes of “Yes Chef!!” ringing in our ears, full-blown food comas induced, Palomar victorious, its place in the top ten retained.


Dining in Mauritius

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 01.35.20Life at the End of a Fork is broadcasting from the sunny beaches of Mauritius this week. After visiting the island in 1896, Mark Twain said: “Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius.” This may be a bit of an exaggeration. Heaven hopefully has a much smaller population of flies, better drivers, and pizzas that don’t come topped with processed turkey ham. But Mauritius is certainly very beautiful, full of gently sloping green mountains and turquoise waters lapping onto quiet, sandy beaches.

Rather than review restaurants individually and in great detail, we decided to summarise four good restaurants that are worth visiting on the island during a visit, providing micro-reviews in the body of the blog below.

Palais de Barbizon
Address: St Anne Road, Chamarel village, Southwest Mauritius
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Saturday
Meal: Lunch
Price: £
Rating: 7.5/10

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We dropped into this little orange-washed restaurant on the way back from the Seven Coloured Earths, on the Chamarel plain. Having been let down by the Seven Coloured Earths (in the name of honesty they should be renamed A Couple of Shades of Brown Dirt), we were then uplifted by Palais de Barbizon. It is presided over by the garrulous, chuckling Rico I’Intelligent, who also happens to be the village mayor, whilst his wife, who looks like she has spent a lifetime both cooking and eating delicious food, works magic in the kitchen.

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.09.58The menu is simple and fixed: five bowls of various vegetables, rice, and a choice of either fish or chicken. We ordered up both, and everything brought to the table was wholesome, satisfying and bursting with flavour. For dessert we had banana flambé. It was all washed down with a homemade concoction of beer, rum and lemonade. The four of us left with a combined bill comfortably under £50. Suffice to say that I’ve paid ten times the amount for worse food in Michelin-starred restaurants in London.

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Chez Tante Athalie
Address: Mon Repos, Route Royale, Pamplemousses, North Mauritius
Bookings: no booking required last order 14:30
Day: Friday
Meal: Lunch
Price: £
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.01.50An open-air restaurant presided over by a Franco-Mauritian couple. It is less than a ten minute drive from the Botanical Garden in the Pamplemousses District, North Mauritius, and we twinned a trip to the gardens with lunch here. The food was French with a slight island twist.

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.11.35I ate a bowl of exquisitely fried calamari with a garlic, mayonnaise sauce , and a main of chicken in cream sauce, garlic sautéed potatoes perched alongside. My partner in culinary crime was in raptures over some elegant looking tuna carpaccio, a melting globe of lemon sorbet sitting incongruously in the middle of the fish. Unorthodox perhaps, but it worked, the whole plate a tart mixture of lemons, limes and the freshest of fish.

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For a main course she was appreciative of a steak, served rare, on a skewer. We ate to the accompaniment of a chorus of gorgeous birds, whilst swatting almost manically at the equally abundant flies. Vintage cars dotted the restaurant’s garden, and a beaten up old Cessna aeroplane sat in the shade of a tree, never to fly again.

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Domain
Address: Narainen St Grand Baie, Mauritius
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: £
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.11.42A divisive one at Life at the End of a Fork. The chilli lamb, served in a frying pan, was the single best thing I ate on the island of Mauritius.

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It was perfectly spiced – putting the tongue constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but never quite pushing it over the edge – and came with a liberal dose of onions and peppers. I ate it at a frantic pace, accompanied by a delicious medley of fried rice, egg and spring onion. My partner in culinary crime was distinctly unimpressed by her fare, declaring a plate of fried chicken and seafood to be “upmarket KFC” (which sounds like a compliment to me), and her curried prawns to be dull and bland. The food was cheap, with 3 courses each and drinks coming in under £20 a head.

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Luigi’s
Address: Royal Road, Grand Baie, B13, Grand Baie
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Wednesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: £
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.13.55A decent Italian restaurant near Grand Baie, given a touch of Mediterranean authenticity by the fact that the Italian lady who owned the place left the kitchen at one point to loudly berate and gesticulate at one of the customers, who sat sheepishly, holding the hand of his much younger Mauritian girlfriend.

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 16.10.19I had some mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce, which was a little meagre, but the mussels themselves were fresh and well-cooked. My partner in culinary crime had some gauze-thin tuna carpaccio, which was a delight, salted and seasoned, and tasted as if it had been swimming blithely through the ocean only moments before.

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The list of pizzas was extensive. I ordered up pepperoni and mushroom, which was solid and filling, if a little over-greased. My partner in culinary crime wolfed down a chicken and mushroom pizza. The chocolate brownie we finished with was the nicest dessert we found in Mauritius.

 

 

 

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