London has many restaurants you nip in for a quick bite or ones you can dawdle in over dessert, but there are all too few eateries that confidently grab you by the shirt collar and say: 'This is a date night restaurant. This, my friend, is a sexy restaurant.' Well, put your best freakum dress on, because The Tent (at the End of the Universe) is that restaurant.
Buzzy ex-Noma chef John Javier initially opened this Middle Eastern small plates joint in Fitzrovia as a no-fee, members-only club before throwing the doors open to all and sundry. So what can us plebs expect? Through the unmarked doors, you enter a small, dimly-lit space reminiscent of a Bedouin tent, complete with low seating, tiny constellation-like ceiling lights and some very dramatic draping. So: This is the tent, but what about the end of the universe bit? Well, it’s very dark in there, which would fit with the apocalypse theme, if the end of the world was soundtracked by an incongruously loud Brazilian bossa nova band. Thankfully, the food is good enough to drown out the noise – the warm, pillowy flatbread comes dusted with a sprinkle of zaatar, to be dunked in beetroot borani with a creamy kick of goats curd and a deliciously moreish hummus drenched in a spicy chilli oil. The lamb shish nails the smokiness of an ocakbasi grill but comes in at a disappointing sliver of a portion; the mushroom shish fares better with fat, juicy cuts grilled in umami-ish marinade.
Then come the stars of the show: a wild tiger prawn the size of a small lobster, its perfectly charred shell yielding sweet, juicy flesh, and a brilliantly tender black cod dish on top of black rice, topped with fragrant green zhoug and a miso-cured egg yolk. I’m not sure a Lebanese grandma would approve, but it is delicious and heartwarming in the way good homecooked food is. Service is warm and friendly, if a little underinformed about the food, though they were more than happy to run to the kitchen to ask for more information. There’s only one dessert on the menu – baklava, obviously – which comes in a thick, rosewater-drenched wedge served with whipped rum and pomegranate.
The food doesn’t come cheap – a single prawn alone will set you back £24 – but with a small but perfectly formed cocktail and wine list that namechecks everything from coconut bourbon to London’s love of orange wine, The Tent is somewhere you could easily while away an hour or two with a hot date. If nothing else, it’s dark enough to play footsy under the table.
The vibe Low-lit, romantic and definitely not one to take your platonic BFF to – unless you’re planning on making a move, of course.
The food A cheffy take on Middle Eastern small plate cuisine that will put a dent in your wallet.
The drink A short cocktail list with a respectable array of European wines and the odd beer and cider.
Time Out tip Listen out for the Robin Williams jokes being played in the loo.