Posted on January 12th, 2017
On the 20th December, I had the pleasure of visiting Tabun Kitchen in Soho for a Palestinian banquet.
As I walked in the door my mouth began to water at the sight of crispy the baklava sitting behind the counter, the edges bright green with crushed pistachios, instantly reminding me of holidays to Turkey as a child.
After the excellent first impression, things went decidedly down hill, and we ended up having to wait a wee while for a table. This wasn’t because of poor service, but because, in true food -blogger –first-world-problems style, I needed a table by the window for natural light. Extreme I know, but when it comes to my work it has to be something I’m proud of and I feel like these photographs really do justice to the exquisite food.
The 2 hours wait made me extremely hangry and subsequently I ended up browsing the cocktail menu…! I’m rather glad it did as I am now delighted to make my recommendation for a Rosewater Collins, a simple concoction of gin, rosewater, sparkling water and lemon juice. #healthypartygirl!
Moving on, the food menu is an amalgamation of authentic Jerusalem-inspired home cooking. Founder Hanan Kattan grew up in a Palestinian household, her mother’s family are from Jersualem and her father’s from Bethlehem. She says, “the story of Palestinian food and cuisine is the story of life, family and friends”.
Rather fitting, I was having lunch with two of my oldest friends and the playful nature of our mezze starter, the dipping, passing, serving and chatting as we went definitely made for laughter and conversation. The warm mini-pitta breads, baked freshly in Tabun’s open oven, were to die for, particularly after the wait and more probably due to the gin in my drink! We tore and dipped them into little pots of hummus and babaganoush, garlicky and topped with jewels of pomegranate and a drizzling of golden olive oil. We also had a moreish plate of salty fried halloumi with creamy smashed avocado, as well as Jerusalem falafels with a sumac onion centre served alongside a colourful tahini-tossed aubergine salad.
On to the main event and we were already starting to feel full. The waiter brought us three of the restaurant’s speciality dishes, all beautifully presented and equally as stunning in taste. My favourite dish was the Lamb Makloubeh. The meat was rich, yet tender and flavourful, served alongside yellow (saffron wasn’t it?) rice, great juicy slices of grilled aubergine, tomatoes and courgette, and raita.
We also shared the Musakhan Chicken, which consisted of a soft sumac flat bread containing sumac-marinated chicken, caramelised onions, pine nuts, and a yoghurt, cucumber and mint sauce. I love the way Middle Eastern cooking uses yoghurt a creamy and cooling contrast to spicy meats and veg.
Last but not least we tucked into the Fatet Jaj Chicken. A milder plate of lemon-roasted chicken with rice, hummus, chopped chilli, sautéed garlic and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Probably the lightest of the three, and my two friends’ favourite.
There was absolutely no room whatsoever for pudding which is a shame as I would like to go back and try the tahini ice cream. What also caught my eye on the menu were the delicious sounding Manaeesh Palestinian Pizza’s, for which I would also definitely return, although this time I’d be happy to sit in a dark table at the back to avoid the two hour wait necessary for the lighting requirements of a seemingly self-important food blogger…I’ll leave you to decide my status!
All thing considered, Tabun Kitchen is one to visit for its authentic,flavorful and colourful food that packs in a host of fragrant and powerful spices including chilli, sumac, za’atar, thyme and cumin to name but a few. The element I love most is the Palestian ethos of coming together around food, sharing, chatting, laughing and celebrating eating in a mindful, happy and relaxed manner. I can’t thing of any better reason to encourage you to book a table this January!