With fare rooted in Jewish, Arabic and Mediterranean traditions, Palomar’s menu seemed as exciting as the action by the bar where chefs and servers entertain punters with cheeky winks and funky prep.
Thankfully we were sent to the back where we have a proper table because I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of cheese. The space is tinier than I’d imagined and it was rather humid (they had aircon issues) where they sat us. That said, I did like our corner booth as it gave us a good vantage point for my other favourite past time: people watching.
We wanted some bread to begin with and though our minds were in it for the challah, our server suggested the kubaneh (£5). It’s steamed pull-apart bread usually cooked overnight and eaten for brekky on Sabbath day. I’ve had sugar-dusted kubaneh before in the Philippines but Palomar’s is quite the savoury type. The bread was soft and salty, warm and perfect.
Our bread was served with two dips, tahini and grated tomato. I thought the grated toms dip was creamy and tangy to a tee, but it was the tahini that impressed me. I don’t like tahini that much but this was superb. If it’s good enough to convert someone then woopdeedoo, it must be really good.
We were given some sweet potato crisps with some sort of tahini and parsley dip. Quite a nice snack to munch on while waiting for mains.
We ordered some kubenia (£9), hand chopped beef fillet served on a bed of (more) tahini, and pine nuts. Frankly, this was more exciting that the steak tartare dishes I’ve had in Paris. The beef was well seasoned and the pine nuts gave the dish such a nice texture. The tahini may have tipped the dish to a saltier profile, but I do like its overall flavour.
The seared scallops (£13.5) were quite pleasant. These were served atop sliced new pots and swiss chard and artichoke, dressed in a delicious lemon beurre blanc light and delicate to the palate. I didn’t think the hazelnut tuille was necessary but it was a good dish, nonetheless.
You can’t ignore something called octo-hummous on a menu so we went out to get that, too. The octopus is “josperised” (ie cooked in an indoor barbecue oven) and is nice and tender on its own… however, as it’s swimming in a bed of hummous – albeit really good and creamy – the smokiness I expected was lost.
Another josperised dish we ordered was the cauliflower steak (£7.5) which came in a pool of labneh and sprinkled with almonds. I was most excited of this dish, which is a shame because it was the most underwhelming. The cauliflower itself lacked seasoning but the labneh was some of the best I’ve had. Ever.
We washed it all with a glass of Riesling each. Serving size was quite generous for ‘small plates’ and considering we didn’t order much (between two) we were comfortably full in the end.
Overall, I liked The Palomar a lot and I can’t believe it took a year to try it out. The dishes were well thought of and produce was top class. I’d definitely go back for sure (with a proper camera this time!), as there are still heaps of dishes I would love to try, even if I had to brave the queues and nurse my hangry stomach. Well worth it.