Valentine‘s Day is a holiday that many consider overrated. I‘ve never been one for big gifts and extravagant gestures but with busy lives spending quality time with your other half can often be neglected so it‘s a good excuse to put aside all your other commitments and make sure you get to spend the day together. Whether you go out to a fancy restaurant, cook your loved one their favourite meal or grab a takeaway and watch a good film, you can ignore all the hype and just use it as an excuse to set everything else aside and put each other first.
The Boyfriend and I take it in turns to plan our Valentine‘s and this year it was mine. I walk through Soho on my way home from work most days and recently Tabun Kitchen has been catching my eye. The restaurant offers a ‘fresh, modern interpretation of traditional Palestinian recipes’ based on the food of founder Hanan Kattan’s family and childhood. This kind of food is right up my street so absolutely couldn’t wait to get tucked in. Enticed by the Jerusalem Feast advertised on a bill board outside, I booked us in for February 14th.
One of the first things to strike me upon arriving and getting settled in the restaurant was just how welcome I felt. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in a restaurant that adorns it’s walls with quotes about family and sharing but it is rare in a city where the restaurant scene so heavily revolves around turnover.
Whilst there was a Valentine’s set menu, we opted instead for the heavily advertised Jerusalem Feast as many of the dishes were new to us so it seemed the best way to get a feel for the cuisine as a whole. I sipped on a delightful pomegranate bellini while we waited for the first few dishes to arrive.
The mezze starters all arrived together, which was a bit of a squeeze on our small table for two but with a bit of re-arranging we just about managed it. Being a great lover of falafel, I wasn’t disappointed with the ones at Tabun, they had a lovely fragrant and herby flavour. I was also intrigued by the manaeesh , also known as a ‘Palestinian pizza’ which came fresh from the tabun oven just behind our table. I really enjoyed this alternative take, as it was much more heavily spiced and not as sweet as the more European pizzas and flatbreads I’ve tried before. There’s a selection of different toppings on the main menu and I’m definitely trying the lamb, tahini and kofta version on my next visit. The stand out mezze dish for me though, had to be the moutabal. I’m a sucker for an aubergine and the delicate smokiness of this dip was very moreish.
For the main part of the feast we shared two dishes, Fatet Jaj Chicken and Lamb Makloubeh. Both were served with rice. Although presented very similarly the two dishes were worlds apart in flavour. The lamb dish had flavours similar to a biryani, slow cooked shredded lamb was very simple, not dressed up too much giving the lamb a real chance to shine. Lamb is favourite meat so this was an absolute delight. In contrast to the simple cooking of the lamb, the chicken was absolutely packed with Eastern flavours and served with a yoghurt based creamy sauce. The Boyfriend and I couldn’t agree on which was our favourite but I’d happily devour both again.
Despite being absolutely stuffed from our Jerusalem feast, I couldn’t resist a peek at the dessert menu. I’m a sucker for ordering things I’ve not tried before so we ordered Knafeh and Muhulabieh to share. Muhulabieh is a rose scented milk pudding, not dissimilar to a pannacotta. If you’re not a fan of rose flavours then this definitely isn’t for you but I thought it was really sensitively balanced with the creamy sweetness from the milk. It was definitely a strong flavour but not so overpowering that the whole thing tasted like soap, as is always the danger with rose. The Knafeh was my personal favourite and I definitely had to fight with The Boyfriend to get my fair share of this one! Layers of shredded filo encased a thing layer of Akkawi cheese and the whole thing was drowning in syrup and coated with pistachios. Similar to a baklava, this was a step up in terms of flavour!
Ever since my Valentine’s visit I’ve been raving about Tabun Kitchen to friends and family and telling them they have to go there. With reasonably priced food and incredible flavours there really isn’t anything not to love. There’s also a lunch menu with mezzo and wraps to takeaway that I will definitely be taking advantage of. I love the casual café vibe at Tabun Kitchen and I can’t wait to pop in again and try some of their other dishes.