Palomar – Soho, London

Palomar (English): Mount Palomar, a mountain in Southern California, northeast of San Diego, height of 1,871 m.

Palomar (Spanish): a shelter with nest holes for domesticated pigeons.

I’ve no idea why it is called Palomar. What I do know though, is it is very very good.

Every time I tried to book a table online I was rejected. What was I to do? Give up? Turn up and hope for the best? We opted for the latter on Saturday evening. We turned up at 7pm to find a hubbub of people outside and one of the managers with a clipboard. She took our name and phone number down and we went for a drink, anticipating a two-hour wait. Our call came early though, after just over an hour, so we walked back, at a brisk pace to ensure our space wasn’t given away.

We were shown to our space at the bar, on the far right, and were greeted by Thomas, second in command in the kitchen. Not only was Thomas second in command; he took our order, served our food, answered our many questions, discussed life and love with us and plied us with shots.

We ordered the seven course tasting menu to ensure we didn’t miss out on anything special. Each course was spectacular. Salmon carpaccio followed by “kubenia” (extremely finely hand chopped beef fillet with bulgur, tahini, herbs, pine nuts and tomato). This was really great as it was very unlike any raw beef dish I’d had before, and beautifully presented:

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Next came “Polenta Jerusalem style” (asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan & truffle oil with a poached egg). This dish was perfectly sized as any more could have been slightly too rich and any less would leave the consumer wanting more. This was followed by a risotto with salmon then sea bass and mackerel with braised cauliflower.IMG-20140816-00036 IMG-20140816-00038 IMG-20140816-00039

We then had onlget steak with a financier (a small, spongy French cake) with a blueberry sauce served on the side in a very miniature saucepan, the whole dish nicknamed “steak ‘n’ cake.” It makes dining out far more interesting when you try something for the first time. This was definitely the first time I had mixed steak with cake and it was pretty liberating, if a little confusing for the taste buds. A very loose comparison would be a chocolate covered pretzel (sweet yet salty).

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The final course was a multi-faceted dessert; chocolate cremeux (eaten with a spoon but denser than mousse) with puffed rice crunch, pomegranate coulis and cocoa tuile, labneh ice cream, tahini ice cream and raspberry cheesecake. I adored the chocolate, and thought it went superbly with pomegranate coulis. The labneh ice cream tasted a little like frozen yoghurt but better, and the malabi was delightful. I’m afraid to say I didn’t like the tahini ice cream; I have no doubts that if I were to compare it to rival tahini ice cream this would win hands down, but the flavour and texture are quite unique and unfortunately not my favourite.

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Every so often an 80’s classic would start playing and the whole Palomar team would sing along, Tomer (head chef) would drum away at the kitchen counter and the shots would come out. It felt like a more upmarket version of the bar in the movie Coyote Ugly. We didn’t want to leave (but were so full that falling asleep then and there would otherwise have been inevitable).

The tasting menu plus a carafe of wine came to around £60 per head, but ordering from the regular menu would make it significantly cheaper. It was worth every penny though, and I thoroughly recommend going without a booking and waiting to sit at the bar to get the full experience. I enjoyed Palomar so much I’m going to alter my rating system just so I can give it a ten out of ten:

Rating: 10/10

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