This modest Israeli-run café was one of the most welcome new openings of 2012, but to some extent has become a victim of its own success. The small tables and chairs are packed closely together, with little elbow room; finding a spare table at short notice is rarer than finding a burning bush in the desert. Prices are on the high side for what, after all, is only a café – even if it does serve wine and is now open in the evenings for dinner. But the cooking is still very appealing, even if it doesn’t quite measure up the hype (a cookbook has just come out, following much media reporting in 2013 over a six-figure fee for the publication rights).
The reality is that this is very nice, but not especially unusual Middle Eastern cooking – Ottolenghi it ain’t. Own-made taramasalata was served with some very moreish lavoush crackers, but the egg roe itself was nothing extraordinary. Better was the falafel – crisp on the outside, herby and flavoursome within, with a slightly tart tahini sauce. A roasted aubergine main course seemed to have been garnished with more concern for how the dish looked than tasted: the copious handful of whole mint leaves and raw pomegranate arils was overpowering. The lamb meatballs were also served with a crudely-chopped salad; the shards of raw red onion wouldn’t pass muster in a most London Lebanese restaurants.
For such high prices we had hoped for more care with the dishes; but in its favour, the service from the young waitresses was charming and very quick.