What makes you stop and gawp outside a shop window? Designer trainers? Slick shades? For me, it’s salads. Not just any old jumble of leaves, but the kind that make you reconsider how you feel about salads altogether. You know: sexy, ‘eat me’ salads. Lifestyle salads. This is what lunch at Haya is like: little plates of Israeli-inspired sunshine.
They sit there, shimmering on the long window counter, quietly calling to you: ‘Come inside, choose us, we’re so pretty.’ So, you do. And you quickly realise that Haya is no casual caff. It’s not even a mid-level Ottolenghi. Instead, it’s a swish, uber-stylish spot, a place for lunch after a very expensive haircut (I imagine). There’s flattering lighting. Ella Fitzgerald crooning through the speakers. Plus marble tables, modern art and a substantial amount of unironic air kissing.
And the food? Mostly very good. The small-plates menu is two thirds cold (only a few dishes are on the counter, the rest are made to order) plus a handful of ‘hot’. Highlights include a thick, creamy tzatziki under a small bonfire of deep-fried courgette sticks. Later, a trio of terrifyingly moreish crab cakes with an excellent chraime (a gutsy spiced tomato sauce). Or roasted halves of aubergine from the display, showered with almond flakes, minced garlic, morsels of feta, a sticky balsamic glaze and the jewel of all jewels, pomegranate seeds.
There was the odd niggle: a too-dense knot of challah bread; an oversweet dressing on the greens. But it was the service – perfectly well meaning, but amateurish – that was the frustration. The menu bore no resemblance to what was actually available (why even bother having one?) and two dishes were mis-described. Still, for salad with stacks of style, Haya's just the ticket.