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The Rise Of Israeli Food In London

August 2017Words by Ms Suze Olbrich

Clockwise from top: tea-smoked aubergine, beef and onion, crushed potatoes, burrata and quince. Photograph courtesy of Bala Baya

The vibrancy of the Israeli dining scene in London at the moment gives an authentic insight into eating out in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Populated by a mosaic of immigrant communities, the tiny nation gives curious chefs the chance to learn from dozens of inherent and adopted traditions. Yet regardless of any given dish’s, or chef’s, provenance, the universal ingredient in these kitchens is a willingness to disregard conventions in pursuit of heightened enjoyment.

And this ambitious, omnivorous and, above all, convivial spirit is becoming increasingly palpable in London. In the 15 years since Mr Yotam Ottolenghi and Mr Sami Tamimi first turned Brits on to the Levant’s remarkable bounty, heady blends of Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean flavours have also been plated up at the likes of The Palomar, Berber & Q, Honey & Co. and The Good Egg – the latter trio the handiwork of ex-Ottolenghi chefs: Mr Josh Katz; Mr Itamar Srulovich and Ms Sarit Packer, and Mr Oded Mizrachi respectively. In their vein, further openings have followed such as Schwarma Bar from Berber and Q; The Barbary, a sibling to The Palomar; and Bala Baya by Mr Tamimi-acolyte, Mr Eran Tibi. And now, with Mr Nick Balfe of Brixton’s Salon hosting Tel Aviv-inspired “Shalom” pop-ups; Israeli chef Mr Oded Oren, who won plaudits for his Louie Louie residency, and The River Café’s Ms Shuli Wimer, who showed considerable skill at Carousel this summer, making plans for solo ventures – well, it’s assured that we’ll soon be more acquainted with contemporary Israeli hospitality than ever.

Goat shawarma at Shalom at Salon. Photograph courtesy of Salon