Last Updated on June 17, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
A Taste of the Levant in South Kensington.
One evening several years ago now, I was invited to a Ceru pop-up restaurant. If I remember rightly, it was in Fitzrovia, tucked away behind shops and hotels. On what must have been one of the wettest nights in memory, I arrived drenched to the skin. But, Ceru is special, not just because of the food but because of the warmth and enthusiasm of founders Barry and Patricia. In a few minutes, I’d forgotten all about the rain, and was perched on a barstool to work my way through a Levantine feast fit for royalty.
Eventually, Barry and Patricia found permanent homes in Soho and South Kensington serving a menu that seems to magically get better – even though you may well have thought your last meal was the finest possible. Then, Covid struck and the pair were forced to close the Soho branch completely. Undaunted, Ceru set up the Ceru at Home delivery service, a splendid feast from the Levant, wrapped in a bespoke silk scarf and delivered to your door. Our reviewer loved it! And, now Ceru is open for business again. A stone’s throw from the museums, heading towards West Brompton, it’s a hidden treasure that you need to know about – especially as there’s a great set light lunch for £11 a head. We hear there’s a new restaurant opening in Queensway soon too!
We dined from the All Day Menu, selecting a range of dishes – some old favourites and some new ones.
The obvious way to start is with the three in one selection of dips. You’ll get Houmus with chickpeas and green chilli, Fadi – a lightly roasted courgette mixture with garlic, yoghurt and tahini and Ceru Hamara – red pepper with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Choose from Greek pita bread or seasonal crudites and sip on some Lebanese wine to wash it all down. Our Soupir Chateau Oumsiyat came as a 500ml carafe or by the glass and was a delicious, fragrant rose that was perfect for dining al-fresco.
If I had to pick a favourite of the dips, the Ceru Hamara was deliciously nutty and tangy. But, actually, it’s the trio of dips that works best for me.
Spring in a bowl, the warm salad of artichoke, green peas and baby onions with preserved lemon, ginger and turmeric dressing, would make a worthy lunch dish in its own right. Beautifully balanced, the dressing gave just the right amount of tang to the dish.
Fragrant plump king prawns, Karides, with tomato, dill and fenugreek is a Greek/Turkish dish that I’ve tried to make myself but never quite perfected. Overcook the prawns and you have rubbery prawn bullets. And, the sauce has to be just so. Of course, it was here!
We loved the spiced polenta and feta fries with a mint and dill yoghurt dip. The kind of side dish that you can ALMOST pretend is healthy. Delicious.
Ceru’s lamb shoulder is a legend in its own right and I was pleased to introduce my companion to this meltingly tender lamb, which the menu tells us is ‘slow-roasted for five hours with a secret blend of 12 Shawarma spices, with pomegranate sauce, fresh mint and pistachio’. Dark and sultry on the plate, studded with pomegranate and smothered in a velvety sauce, it’s a real treat.
Merguez chicken served on a preserved lemon, mint and lentil salad was just a little dry for me. But, perhaps it was simply overshadowed by the lamb shoulder…
I had no plans to eat dessert but was easily tempted by dark chocolate and tahini mousse. I’m fully intending copying this one – adding tahini to the mousse gave it a wonderfully silky texture with just a hint of sesame
Meanwhile, flavours of baklava ice cream was as pretty as a picture – a kind of deconstructed baklava with honeyed ice cream.
We sipped on Turkish apple tea and relaxed in the sun. Ceru is the kind of restaurant where you will linger – and where no one will mind.
It’s almost part of the way of life in the Levant. This part of the world is made up of countries from the eastern Mediterranean and northeast African. Lebanon, Israel, parts of Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. It’s been described as the crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa. The cuisine has been popularised by the likes of Ottolenghi. there’s now even a range of ‘Levantine Table’ dishes in Waitrose. Gentle reader, they are nothing like the dishes you’ll try either from Ottolenghi or in Ceru, my own secret haunt.
7-9 Bute St,
London SW7 3EY
Disclosure: We were guests of Ceru.