Wednesday, 1 February 2017

HONEY & SMOKE - YOUR NEW FAVOURITE RESTAURANT


have been a huge fan of Honey & Co for years now, it without a doubt being one of my all time favourite restaurants. Run by the rather fantastic husband and wife duo of Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, it serves stellar Middle Eastern / Israeli food with an almost magical touch that made me go there over and over again ( and not just me but just about any foodie and restaurant critic in this town). I was more than excited then when I heard they were about to open a second outpost, and to make things even more intriguing not simply another Honey & Co but something a little different.

Indeed Honey & Smoke focuses on, you may have guessed, the art of grilling and does so rather wonderfully. But first let me start with the new space. Though a little outside my usual East London remit and technically in the middle of central London, it is luckily just far enough from the craziness of Oxford Circus, being a good 10-15 minute wonder away from tourist hell. I for one love Honey & Smoke's big new space, filled with vividly coloured, modern chairs that stand juxtaposed to the more traditionally Mediterranean floor tiles and old tomato tins in which the cutlery is kept on each table. It may seem a little canteen-y for some but for me this space wonderfully sums up what theses guys are all about, modern yet traditionally Middle Eastern with a London twist - it's unique, it's them and it made me feel at once at home, helped also by the fact that I was welcomed with a big hug from Itamar who instantly recognised me from my many visits to Honey & Co. Sarit and Itamar have quickly become some of London most renown chefs with their very own weekly column in the Financial Times as well as a range of best selling cookbooks, yet despite all of this new found fame can still be found in their restaurant kitchens most days, creating wonderful food and greeting their diners just like they would if they had invited you to their home back in Israel. If this isn't passion then I don't know what is and for that alone I would already recommend a visit to one of their restaurants.

Of course the food matters too and my very high expectations from my previous experiences at Honey & Co were only exceeded. In fact I may even slightly prefer Honey & Smoke. Why? I will get to that in a bit. Firstly I love that you have to commit to a whole three course extravaganza here which at £34.5 and considering that you will get served a ridiculous amount of delicious food, is an absolute steal. To start things your table is presented with probably the most stunning array of mezze I have every been lucky enough to try, not only a feast for the eyes with it's colourful array of pickles, salads and dips but providing you with a true flavour explosion with every bite. It's impossible to settle on favourites here, everything simply so great with dishes changing weekly depending on what ingredients are in season, but on this particular occasion the mezze spread included the best baba ganoush of my life, msabaha (an irresistible combination if chickpeas, Turkish pepper and garlic sauce), burnt celeriac with urfa chilli butter, sour cream and chives, their moorish falafel with tahini and charred blush pear with almond tahini and raw honey, all served with freshly baked and incredibly fluffy bread. We were indeed pretty much left in awe (and stuffed considering the sheer volume of food) even before any of our mains had arrived.

That is not to say that the mains were any less outstanding. With plenty of meat, fish and vegetarian mains, two veggie options on the menu in fact which is far from a given in any restaurant, I seriously struggled to pick which one to go for on this occasion but in the end, and on the recommendation of the lovely Itamar, went for the appropriately wintery combination of charred pumpkin in orange and spice with chestnut sauce, charred apples and pickled corianders, served with a stunning side of sweet potato in embers, almonds, date honey and spring onions (this set menu indeed also letting you pick between some seriously great sides with the crispy burnt potato with sumac dressing also getting rave reviews from my fellow dinners). Everything just worked here, unusual flavour combinations that were only further elevated by the charring process, coming together to create something that was a sheer delight to eat. My fellow diners went for the meat with equally great reviews that followed and I for one already cannot wait to go back to try more of the mains . This is imaginative, skillful and comforting cooking at it's best and worth every penny you pay for it.

Desserts, much like at Honey & Co, are also no mere afterthought, after all Honey & Co's feta and honey cheesecake on a kadif pastry base one of my top 5 desserts of all time and indicative that these guys know their sweet stuff too. Thankfully this utterly out-of-this-world cheesecake also makes an appearance at Honey & Smoke and was, I am going to be honest, always going to be my choice of dessert here. However the sneaky spoonfuls of the other desserts I managed to get my hands on around our table were also pretty damn good, with the warm chestnut cake with salt caramel and sour cream being particularly scrumptious. If you've never had the cheesecake please order it and thank me later but if like me you have had it before and are a creature of habit, take the plunge and  explore the other desserts here because heck they arent going to let you down, like everything on the menu here absolute delicious and memorable in their own right.

At the end of our meal we were utterly stuffed to the point of more or less waddling out, well watered (wine here by the way is affordable and well curated) and had a big, fat grin on our faces. Honey & Smoke serves the definition of soul food, full of flavour and showcasing real passion and skill. There aren't many places like this in London or in fact anywhere in the world, Honey & Smoke a gem of a restaurant that we are very lucky to have in this town. I for one cannot wait what to see what this duo will get up to next, you'll find me first in line ready to eat wherever that may be.