Bustling and bright, Tish knows ex­actly who its clien­tele is. But they aren’t re­ally there for the food…

The Observer Magazine - - Food & Drink -


Just af­ter our wait­ress had fin­ished tak­ing our or­der at Tish I looked up and said, “Is there any ques­tion you’d like to ask me?” It sounds ter­ri­bly pas­sive-ag­gres­sive doesn’t it, this in­ter­ro­ga­tion, but don’t worry. Tish is a kosher restau­rant in Bel­size Park, north Lon­don. The room was full of Jews and if there’s one thing my peo­ple have nailed it’s pas­sive-ag­gres­sive. Our wait­ress shrugged at her notepad and said: “Meh, I don’t think so.” Then she went, “Ac­tu­ally… Who’s hav­ing the soup and who’s hav­ing the salt beef sand­wich?”

Ah, the salt beef sand­wich. The ques­tion I was wait­ing for her to ask was, “Fat on or fat off?” You can have lean salt beef. Of course you can. But it’s a bit like un­salted chips or clean, san­i­tary sex. I mean, what’s the point? Back in the day when Rus­sell Nor­man of the Polpo Group an­nounced he was open­ing a New York-style deli called Mishkin’s, serv­ing salt beef, I forced him to have lunch with me. I lec­tured him on how the wait­ers had to ask whether you wanted the salt beef with fat on or fat off. He took notes. When they opened his wait­ers iters asked the ques­tion.

So any­way, Mishkin’s closed, and now here’s Tish, h, by Bel­size Park Tube with one of those big out­side eat­ing ting ar­eas at the front, un­der a plas­tic-walled mar­quee, like you get at cheap wed­dings. In­side the restau­rant proper roper is brightly lit with a cen­tral bar, an open kitchen and nd soft fur­nish­ings. There’s a toi­let area with lots of flo­ral prints on the walls, be­cause they’re very for­giv­ing when there’s here’s a risk of stain­ing. It is filled with real Jews, not partt timers like me. There are many yarmulkes on dis­play, ay, and mid­dle-aged women I may well have tried to snog nog when we were all 14.

You only need look at this crowd, at the way they y in­ter­ro­gate their plates and eat while talk­ing to each ch other, to know they do not re­gard this as some fancy cy din­ner in a restau­rant. It’s evening and they have to o eat, so what the hell, why not eat here in­stead of in their own kitchens? Saves on the wash­ing up. Most of them hem know each other. There is a lot of wav­ing across the e din­ing room and stop­ping by ta­bles. It’s de­light­ful and also, aw­ful.

The menu is try­ing to be all things to all (of these) e) peo­ple. It’s pre­tend­ing to be a nor­mal restau­rant just like the non-Jews have. So there’s seared tuna and a duck breast dish and a lamb pie with truf­fle mash. But, well, you need to know your mar­ket so, of course, there’s chicken soup with lok­shen (noo­dles) and there’s sch­nitzel and there’s ox tongue and there’s a salt beef 196 Haver­stock Hill, Lon­don NW3 2AG (020 7431 2828). Starters £8-£16 Mains £14-£29 Desserts £4.50-£8 Wines from £23 - A place for k’nossers: (from left) salt beef club sand­wich; the din­ing room and cen­tral bar; sea bass; chicken soup; goose­berry strudel; chicken sch­nitzel; and lok­shen pud­ding

sand­wich. Look, here it comes, with a bowl of crisps on the side as if it’s a week­end lunchtime around your great aunt’s house. Or maybe round my great aunt’s house. She was called Muriel and she liked to feed. I liked to eat. We were well matched. I miss her.

I con­duct a foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion of the sand­wich. There’s much lift­ing and pok­ing. Now I un­der­stand why they didn’t ask the ques­tion. Be­cause, of course, it comes with fat on. Who would want salt beef with­out the fat? There’s a sliced gherkin in there and sauce, and some green stuff which my colon will thank me for. It’s a very good salt beef sand­wich, which it re­ally ought to be at £15.50. The chicken soup is also a beau­ti­ful thing. It is crys­tal clear but full of depth. Come here when you are on the edge of death or have a mi­nor cold, one or the other.

If you’re not kosher for God’s sake don’t come here for the steak or the dairy-free ice cream. Why do that when you can go to a restau­rant where the steaks bleed and the ice cream in­volved a cow, like it should? I think my an­tipa­thy to­wards the picky-eat­ing god of the Jews is well known. I’m fully ex­pect­ing to hear soon that the

Ww‘Of course the salt beef comeswith­comeswith fa­ton.fa­ton. Who would want it with­out the fat? It’s a very good sand­wich, which it ought to be at £15.50’

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