The Palomar, restaurant review: 'Good food for greedy folks – get involved!’

The Palomar, 34 Rupert Street, London W1, tel: 020 7439 8777. £82 for two, with wine

How best for a restaurant to make someone lose their appetite? I vote for making the way to the table so narrow that even the slenderest guest feels like a prize heifer. And so I arrive at the back-room of The Palomar having 'Sorry, sorry, sorried' my way along the length of the bar, jogging elbows and dislodging plates as I go.

It's too narrow, guys. The bar is charming, but to have people on both sides of the corridor is crazy. You can't blame them: it's been rammed since the day it opened. The Palomar has industrial-grade buzz. Everybody wants in.

It's funny eating at a place then having a time-lag before you write a review. In the intervening weeks it has had garlands galore, but my visit isn't an unqualified success, so I try to do what food critics sometimes do: make a return visit to check my original opinion. But of course, I can't get a table…

So, here goes. The Palomar is sister restaurant to Machneyuda in Jerusalem. Its modern Israeli menu (although a country mile from kosher and with souvenirs from all over the Middle East in its fare) takes in a raw bar, small snacky selections and larger dishes from the oven or the grill. It uses only sustainable fish, from day boats, seasonal vegetables, and meat from small British farms. The team of the day is printed on the menu, so you know who's in the kitchen and who's working the room. We've got Tom. He delivers his script with vim, describing the dishes as "smaller in size, bigger in flavour", imploring us to "get involved", and so on. One of the three owners is sitting with friends and soon the lights dim and the music – a most eclectic soundtrack – gets louder. My companion Ruth and I discuss the music. "It's totally random and yet every single track is wrong," she notes.

The food is somewhat random too. There are some delicious, truly tantalising dishes but the presentation is, shall we say, uneven. A starter of kubenia (£8) comes in a wooden cabinet propped open with a knife. There's a small saucepan that doesn't quite fit inside holding tahini with a large quenelle of raw, well-seasoned, hand-chopped beef. Tom spoons over herby gubbins with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds from another little pan. Delicious, just not delivered very elegantly.

If you don't like dolls' house presentation, you won't like Kilner jars either, I'm guessing. Pop goes the lid on a starter-size jar of polenta Jerusalem-style (£5) and we are nasally assaulted. This "very popular signature dish", according to Tom, has soft polenta at its base, then a mushroom ragout, some asparagus spears and a lot of Parmesan shavings. Truffle oil lubricates this whiffy, claggy ensemble.

If you want some ballast before attacking the drinks menu – just one Israeli wine, a decent Syrah at £45, but some ace-sounding cocktails – this is the dish for you (although it's not for me).

More subtle is a fattoush salad – vibrant and accomplished and with home-made labneh (thick, sour yoghurt) at £8, and a polite plate of sea bass grilled in the Josper oven and served with braised broccoli, cardamom-scented crispy potatoes and a citrus vinaigrette. Pretty plate, pretty food (£15).

A deconstructed kebab is – for its ramshackle appearance (mince'n'stuff) – sensational and good value at £8.50. The beef is melting soft and, once mingled with "the four tops" of preserved lemon, yoghurt, tahini and harissa, a complex mouthful that makes one wish all local kebab shops could replicate it.

Persian oxtail stew is a dish too far – we didn't need it and it is huge. Oddly, a divided pressed- tin dish so beloved of Indian restaurants holds the meat, tart turnip tops and melty chickpeas, and is balanced on top of a narrow stand that looks perilous if we attempt an attack. The meat is, again, well cooked but quite an undertaking. It's decent bang for your £12.50 buck, mind.

A milk pudding is "thickened with cornflour", Tom says, as if this is a selling point. Um, we're all right, thanks. We're also stuffed. Mercifully, the crowds have diminished at the bar, otherwise I'd never have made it out.

It ain't polite, but if you choose to "get involved", The Palomar has good food for greedy folks with a high tolerance for buzz.

7.5/10

The Palomar, 34 Rupert Street, London W1, tel: 020 7439 8777. £82 for two, with wine

Four more foodie notes from the week

Granger & Co

Delightful dinner at my page-neighbour Bill's airy new place in east London: a medley of summer dishes including courgette chips, burrata and Korean fried chicken.

Glam Lamb

At a storytelling festival in St Donat's Castle, Wales, a deliciously hefty lamb burger from this farm company, with "lashings of minted mayonnaise".

Le Pain Quotidien

The local branch is now used to my odd breakfast request: one boiled egg and some slices of gruyère (the avoid-carbs regimen continues…)

National Restaurant Awards

Interesting run-down of places voted the UK's 100 Best. The wonderful Gymkhana went straight in at number one (my review is here: ind.pn/1xLNHr4).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?