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