Levantine Delights in Soho at CERU
I originally came across CERU a few years back as a 20 seater three-month pop up in Fitzrovia serving Executive Chef Tom Kime’s delicious small plates of Levantine food. But CERU has stopped popping up and has started putting down roots, with the first permanent CERU restaurant in South Kensington CERU Soho is their second permanent site. The original is in Bute Street in South Kensington but I’ve been asked to come to D’Arblay St, my favourite Soho restaurant strip, to review their new branch which sits in well amongst joints like Copita and Blanchette. The Levant is the area where the eastern Mediterranean meets the Middle East encompassing Cyprus, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. The food is fresh, healthy and big on flavour with lots of fresh herbs, spices, lemon, pomegranate seeds and nuts. It’s also great for vegetarians and vegans as well as being almost wholly gluten and dairy-free. With low lighting, geometric print banquettes and Moroccan ceramics, CERU brings a fresh look to Soho and is a welcome alternative to the plethora of tapas places. The wine list features the Eastern Med, with affordable bottles from Lebanon, Greece and Macedonia as well as the more usual suspects. There are also some exotic sounding cocktails such as the Turkish Delight or the signature “Spiked” Turkish apple tea with Morgan’s spiced rum. But on a warm late summer evening, I started with a super-refreshing glass of Watermelon Lemonade moving on to a full-bodied and fruity Merlot blend with good tannins from the Mylona Estate in Greece. I love a restaurant that has a ‘Dips’ section on the menu. At CERU Soho, we chose the colourful ‘Three in One’ plate that came with a choice of breads or crudités. Fadi blended roast zucchini with garlic, lemon and tahini into a smooth and sensual sesame infused paste. The creamy, garlicky and very maroon Pancar was an earthy mix of roast beetroot with yoghurt, garlic and crushed pistachios. And my favourite was the tangy Ceru Hammara red pepper dip with some crunchy walnuts and a hint of sweetness from pomegranate molasses. Apple, mint and pomegranate salad with pea shoots, roasted pine nuts and green chilli was a crisp and invigorating palate cleanser. For your protein requirements, the menu has Meat, Poultry and Seafood options. We went for the crisp-skinned Fillet of Sea Bream, bathed in a deliciously warm lemon dressing with fried garlic, oregano and red chilli. It was beautifully cooked and full of flavour. Roast aubergine in a chermoula marinade and with a herb yoghurt lohz (spicy roast almond mix) was deliciously squishy, deep in flavour and to my surprise not in any way oily. Slow roast (5 hour) lamb shoulder cooked in a secret blend of 12 Shawarma spices with a pomegranate mint and pistachio sauce was really tender and left a marvellous spicy aftertaste. And moreish spice roast potatoes with turmeric, coriander and spring onion just had to be eaten. Which leads me to dessert! It’s always good to drink champagne at any time of day and my glass of Bernard Remy Brut champagne, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier was the perfect accompaniment to my perfumed honey and cardamom pannacotta with rose petals pomegranate and pistachios. A perfect dark chocolate mousse with sour cherry and pistachio was satisfyingly rich and studded with the tang of sour cherries. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, Ceru has made it into my list of regular Soho haunts. It’s great to see how it has transitioned from a pop-up to a fully fledged groupette of restaurants. There’s nowhere quite like it in the area and the food zings with flavour leaving you with a virtuous healthy glow. With friendly and efficient service and exciting food, it’s a great place to meet friends and family or go on a date night for a taste of something different.
11 D’Arblay Street,
London, W1F 8DS
020 3195 3002 | www.cerurestaurants.com