JERUSALEM’S UK GAS­TRO TRI­UMPH

Lon­don food crit­ics are al­ready rav­ing about the lat­est Is­raeli restau­rant of­fer­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PR­EVER www.thep­alo­mar.co.uk

THE BEST restau­rant in Jerusalem, if not, Is­rael, has launched a Lon­don out­post. The Palo­mar — Lon­don’s ver­sion of trendy eatery, Mach­neyuda, opened its Soho doors in June. Be­hind it are a trio of Is­raeli chefs: As­saf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon, who founded Mach­neyuda, to­gether with Lon­don sis­ter and brother team, Zoë and Layo Paskin.

Mach­neyuda — on the edge of Jerusalem’s Shuk Machane Ye­huda food mar­ket — is a mag­net for lo­cals, Tel Avi­vians and tourists. It has at­tracted huge ac­claim from din­ers and crit­ics since open­ing in 2009.

The Is­raeli restau­rant is as much known for its loud mu­sic and lively evenings with pot­bang­ing, groov­ing chefs — who en­gage with din­ers from the open kitchen — as for its in­no­va­tive food.

The menu changes twice daily, pri­mar­ily in­spired by what the chefs find in the mar­ket that day. Flavours are bold.

The eclec­tic mix of dishes, from po­lenta Jerusalem style and labenah

tortellini to chal­lah and shak­shukit — a de­con­structed ke­bab — il­lus­trate the breadth of in­flu­ences in the three chefs’ back­grounds.

Elad is an Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian baker with Ital­ian in­flu­ence; Navon and Granit have both cooked in Italy and Eng­land, where Navon trained with the Lon­don’s Miche­lin-starred Galvin broth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Elad — the joc­u­lar un­cle of the trio, with 35 years’ cater­ing ex­pe­ri­ence — they have at­tracted a stream of of­fers from for­eign in­vestors, want­ing to take the con­cept back to their coun­tries, ever since they opened.

Af­ter a near miss with a po­ten­tial Berlin open­ing, the Is­raeli trio were re­cep­tive to the Pask­ins, who ap­proached them about com­ing to Lon­don.

“My sis­ter and I had been plan­ning on open­ing a restau­rant for more than two years,” ex­plains, Layo, a for­mer pro­fes­sional DJ who, with Zoë, had pre­vi­ously owned and man­aged suc­cess­ful 1995 Lon­don night­club and bar, The End and AKA.

“I’m not a pro­fes­sional cook but I’m pas­sion­ate about food, and I wanted to work with people who saw things the same way. I met Yossi and the other guys 18 months ago, when I was in Is­rael on a DJ trip. It was very straight­for­ward. We agreed to do it quickly and it’s been an easy and di­rect part­ner­ship. We just had a con­nec­tion.”

Mach­neyuda’s re­laxed vibe, loud mu­sic and friendly ser­vice style is so Is­raeli. Will Lon­don’s din­ers “get it”?

With the open­ing hap­pen­ing when Mid­dle East­ern food is so much of the mo­ment, the tim­ing is good.

“We would not have come here 10 years ago, when Yo­tam (Ot­tolenghi) came. People would not have ac­cepted it as they do to­day,” says Elad.

“We haven’t pan­dered in any way to a Lon­don au­di­ence. People are open-minded about it be­ing the real thing. We don’t want an An­gli­cised ver­sion of this her­itage,” ex­plains Paskin.

Elad — who has been the face of Mach­neyuda in Lon­don for the project — ini­tially wanted the lay­out to mir­ror that of Mach­neyuda, but Paskin per­suaded him that a Lon­don restau­rant needed to have its own style.

The restau­rant is di­vided into a bar at the front and seated area at the back. Din­ers want­ing to soak up the at­mos­phere and get the full ex­pe­ri­ence can sit at the long bar fac­ing the chefs and visit in the evening — when the restau­rant is at its buzzi­est. The am­bi­ence is more se­date in the din­ing room at the rear.

To achieve their ser­vice style, the kitchen has a large num­ber of chefs di­rectly from Is­rael. Three have trans­ferred from the Mach­neyuda group — in­clud­ing head chef Tomer Amedi. Chefs from the Mach­neyuda group — there are five restaurants — will be able to come to Lon­don for a week at a time, while English chefs have been sent to Is­rael for train­ing, and ser­vice staff will also do the same. For both sides the food’s au­then­tic­ity is key. Al­though there is no equiv­a­lent mar­ket, the recipes did not need to change. Lon­don has still of­fered ev­ery­thing they needed — even ob­scure Mid­dle East­ern herbs.

“You just have to know where to look,” smiles Elad.

“We im­port our tahina — as we like the brand we use — but the only thing we had to bring over were the pots to bake our kubaneh (Ye­meni baked bread).”

A hall­mark of the trio’s ap­proach is to take the culi­nary tech­niques they have learned in other coun­tries, and mix them with Is­raeli flavours and Mediter­ranean prod­ucts. “Our food is lo­cal by its in­gre­di­ents, but global by its cook­ing meth­ods and ap­proach,” ex­plains Granit.

This free­dom is what sep­a­rates them and other Is­raeli chefs from their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween an Is­raeli chef and French and Ital­ian chefs can be ex­plained in one word,” laughs

Elad. “Chutz­pah!”

PHO­TOS: HE­LEN CATH­CART

Uri Navon’s fish carpac­cio and ( left) the Palo­mar bar in Lon­don’s Soho is where all the ac­tion takes place

Palo­mar part­ners ( from left): As­saf Granit, Yossi Elad and Layo Paskin

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