Jewish food is a soulful expression of a multidimensional culture and history. But is London doing it right?
Jay Rayner proclaims the food at Zest full of “sunlight and warmth and zest and life” and this stunning café/restaurant in a Jewish community centre is a break for a brighter, fresher cuisine than the boiled meats and pickles of Jewish lore. Caramelised cauliflower with lime aioli, baby aubergine and butternut squash salad and red snapper with harissa and lemongrass all make a statement, that the all-kosher, meat-free menu is setting new standards. A big bar makes it vibrant and fun.
Chopped liver, gefilte fish, chicken soup with kneidlach: hopefully you don’t need us to tell you that Reuben’s restaurant and deli in Baker Street is old school, the type of old school that people keep going back to for grounding. This is a Jewish joint established in the early 70s still announcing pride in their salt beef and the quality of the kosher butchery they purvey. They’ve got a deli takeaway menu as long as your arm and a warm welcome for allcomers.
Polpo and Spuntino set new blueprints for ‘cool’ in restaurants and bars with achingly on-point design and tattoos seemingly in the staff job descriptions. So when they were getting ready to launch a Jewish deli-style joint, well, a lot of people got very excited. And with its slice of New York style, and side order of pickled Soho crowd, Mishkin’s totally delivered with natty takes on Jewish classics and cocktails. The story has some twists left though, as it is currently closed, awaiting relocation to the City. Keep ‘em peeled for what could be a supercharged revamp.
Cure and Cut
OK, not entirely Jewish, but this newly opened New York-style deli has its homesmoked pastrami as its centerpiece, as well as offering big sandwiches and salads and craft beers. The influence of the Jewish deli, the salt beef sandwich or pastrami on rye (wipes saliva off keyboard) can’t be overstated. Just as the Jewish diaspora spread, so did the food and the culture of eating. Now Covent Garden’s Seven Dials get its own take. Lucky Seven Dials.
Yes, you could get chopped liver with gooseberry chutney, but you could also get shredded salt beef with Thai herb, noodle and peanut salad. Clever. Clever Bevis Marks, who created an elegant, famous, refined experience at their restaurant in the Square Mile, but had one eye on the requirements of modern dining in London: namely, differentiation. Unfortunately, the limitations of kosher food mean that Bevis Marks had to close early this year. The owner was disappointed London Jews don’t eat only kosher, however innovative the menu. Unfortunately, times are changing.
Let’s face it, in the Jewish heartlands of Temple Fortune and Golders Green the glories of Jewish cuisine will continue to flourish. Outside, not so much. 1701 kitchen took a decision to shut its restaurant and focus on the spreading the word via catering, mobile fine dining and its deli concession at Selfridges. From borscht to turkey pastrami to Friday night dinner special, 1701 celebrates the heart of Jewish cuisine in all its historical, multi-ethnic forms. The modern face of Jewish food is like the story of its people, always soulful, based in tradition but finding new ways to survive and flourish.