The Palomar, Soho
This is a Sumac-ade, a refreshing citrussy blend of non-alcoholic things. Too often mocktails are tooth-achingly sweet and I'd rather stick with sparkling water, but this was actually really good and was a sign of things to come at The Palomar - a converted newsagent on the Leicester Square end of Rupert Street.
You can book, but for once I suggest you do not bother. Yes it will be busy and you'll probably have to wait outside for a bit - it was restaurant of the year 2015 you see - but a seat at the bar is the only place you want to be and you can't book these. The booths at the back are fine and no doubt you'd have a lovely time but the action is at the pass - there are tales of chefs doing shots, dancing and whatnot (not in a cringy TGI way! - I hope).
The food is a kind of Mediterranean/Israeli hybrid (they have five branches in Jerusalem), though there is pork, shellfish and much mixing of dairy and meat so not traditionally Jewish. I need to eat the entire raw bar menu at another time when I'm not great with child, but in the meantime there is plenty to be going on with - primarily in the small plates format. Start with the Kubaneh bread which is a buttery airy puff of dough served with the most amazing velvet tomato sauce and some of the strongest tahini I've ever encountered.
The menu changes frequently, with some daily specials on top of this but one constant is the Polenta Jerusalem Style and you really must order this. Here it is with some little fish falafels from the specials board. I'm not sure what makes it Jerusalem style, as for me the Italian flavours of truffle oil, mushroom and parmesan were pretty clear. There was also asparagus to top it off. Utterly divine and far far too small:
This beetroot carpaccio was with 'burnt' goat's cheese, hazelnut brittle and a pomegranate molasses type dressing - a delicious blend of sweet and earthy tanginess.
Much of the larger dishes are cooked in the Josper - a fearsome grill/oven famed for its vast heat - lots of the decent steak houses use it to get their steaks so brilliantly charred on the outside. The Palomar are pretty well known for their Josperised aubergine I think, but we passed on this as one of our party isn't mad on it. Instead we tried octopus cooked in it here and it was the best thing we ate. Of course, my photo is unusable so you'll have to trust me on it; just a heavenly level of flavour and immense meatiness with no rubber factor whatsoever.
This appeared at some point; we think it was another octopus dish and was mixed with chickpeas, almonds, pomegranate seeds and doused liberally with the tahini - we hadn't ordered it. We ate it anyway.
You could carry on eating the whole menu at The Palomar and not get bored or even possibly, full. But somehow we called it a night, finishing with this Labneh Mess which is surely up for the accolade of prettiest dessert in London. There's crumble, there's lemon curd, there's lemon jelly, there's meringue. And for once, it's actually in a shareable size.
We spent about £23 each I think but don't quote me on that. Most small plates are about £7 and the larger ones (which aren't much larger) are £13ish. Totally worth it though.