Last Updated on January 15, 2022
A little of the Levant in London
Walking into Ceru, there’s a sunny feel. It feels as if Patricia and Barry the owners of the restaurants (there’s one in South Kensington and a new one in Bayswater near Queensway tube) have gone out of their way to make everyone feel as if they are on holiday somewhere a little warmer than London in January. Pristine wooden tables, banquettes, stools at the bar and around the semi-open kitchen and even a screened area for cocktails all help to give a feeling of intimacy to the space while the rest-rooms come straight from the Mediterranean.
The various iterations of Ceru, from the pop-up in Charlotte Street that I first fell in love with through to the latest opening) have always been a welcoming place to hang out – the sort of restaurant I’d be happy to visit for lunch by myself if I was in the area. I must do that some time, if only to try the ultimate bargain of one of their light lunch platters, a snip at £11 for what sounds like enough to sustain even the hungriest London tourist for the day.
We’re here to try the seasonal menu though, so I’ve got the perfect excuse to pick a selection of dishes. But, while we are choosing a platter of dips arrives with flatbread and crudites. Perfect to nibble on, we accompany the dips with a glass each of the Ceru homemade lemonade of the day (with basil) – a wonderful and refreshing.
Like the rest of the menu at Ceru, the dips are well thought through. There are three homemade options and you can have an individual dip or a selection of all three. The homous came with a sprinkling of green chilli for a bit of heat, while fadi, a delicious creamy dish of zucchini, garlic, yoghurt and tahini was really moreish. We always enjoy CERU hamara, a smooth red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses that has a sweet-sour tang to it.
The main part of the menu is a selection of sharing plates, sectioned by type. We picked seared Atlantic scallops with citrus, garlic and a citrus juniper dressing from the seafood section which arrived picture perfect. Carefully seared queenies were delicate and not in the least rubbery with a piquant sauce and saline crunchy samphire to contrast.
Sticky roasted baby aubergines with date syrup and tamari dressing dressed with sesame and coriander made a vegetarian dish I fully intend to try and recreate at home. I loved the soft, melting texture with a sweet tangy dressing. And, new on the menu, sauteed portobello and shitake mushrooms came in a pretty casserole, topped with spices, spring onions, pistachios and tahini labneh. Yes, I’d order this veggie dish again and it made a great complement to the two meat dishes we picked.
Our meat dishes comprised one old favourite and one newcomer. I think I first ate the Ceru slow-roasted lamb shoulder at the pop-up in Charlotte Street, a melting, carefully spiced dish that comes with a delicate pomegranate sauce, fresh mint and pistachio. Always tender and laced with delicate spices, I’ve ordered it on every opportunity since. My companion, trying it for the first time, was equally impressed.
Roasted leg of rabbit is a new, seasonal menu addition and I ordered it with some trepidation as rabbit can be tough. Not here though, it was spoon tender, with a fragrant skin. The canneli beans had a light spicy and citrus dressing and made a perfect winter dish. Another one to add to my ‘try again’ list.
We added in a bowl of fragrant Orez Ceru – a spiced rice topped with crispy onions which proved to be delicious and buttery, albeit unecessary.
Now, by this stage I really didn’t need dessert. In the interest of research though, we both ordered one. My companion’s choice of Jerome’s Bird Nest – a filo pastry feast with double cream, lemongrass and a lot of pistachios in a fragrant syrup seemed lighter than baklava while my own flavours of baklava ice cream was an excellent option for someone who had really eaten enough already! A light cardamom infused icecream with nut brittle and burnt honey caramel made a delicious and refreshing end to the meal.
My companion enjoyed a couple of mocktails to drink with the meal while I indulged in a glass of Monemvasia red wine in a nostalgic moment of wishing myself back on the tiny island I’d visited before Covid. Ceru has a well priced wine list with a bottle of prosecco for £25 and with plenty of options around £25-£30 for a bottle. They also offer a 500ml carafe option priced at exactly 2/3rds of the price of bottle. That, for me, is a really thoughtful touch – for me, if I am dining with someone else who is drinking it’s the perfect amount to share. And, in a sense, it is a good demonstration of what makes Ceru special. There’s a thoughtfulness in everything they do – these people really care about their customers and about delivering a good offering. We know the Bayswater branch has more planned too – a small garden area on the street. So, we’ve got a great excuse to go back when the sun decides to come out!
London W2 4QJ