A Corner of Tel Aviv in Clerkenwell:
One of the biggest successes in the London restaurant scene of the last few years has been a restaurant called Palomar in Soho that showcases the vibrancy of Jerusalem’s food scene. Now it’s the turn of Tel Aviv – Israel’s second most populated city – to have its food culture celebrated. Sarona is a Tel Aviv neighbourhood and its indoor culinary market is the country’s largest. New Clerkenwell opening Sarona takes both its name and influence from the flavours of Tel Aviv presented ‘with a distinctive East London twist’. I’ve been invited to review. The restaurant is right in the heart of Clerkenwell just around the corner from foodie haven St. John Street and close to Farringdon tube. The interior features bare brick walls, pine tables, cork-style flooring and industrial lighting giving out burnt orange and deep pink hues which add warmth to the space. I checked out the wine list over a welcoming plate of pickles. It was the first time in years of eating out and reviewing that I had seen an Israeli bottle featured and frankly I was excited! Ella Valley Chardonnay, 2016, Judean Hills comes from an ancient wine growing area best known for the David and Goliath showdown. With a hint of lightly roasted oak, a creamy malolactic quality and peach and melon notes it was a delicious counterpoint to the flavours of the food. We started with a couple of items from the dipping and ripping menu. An earthy plate of chopped grilled aubergine was enlivened by fresh mint and the sweet and sour of pomegranate ‘rubies’.And the trio of salads included a texturally interesting blend of chickpeas, pumpkin, green beans and mangetout bathed in a fiery harissa sauce, a cooling plate of tomato, cucumber and peppers and a chickpea, mangetout and onion mixture with a tahini dip. From the small plates list harissa roast sweet potato with sour cream and pomegranate had deep delicious notes of smoked paprika – I could have eaten this all night… and crispy cauliﬂower with tahini and amba (spicy mango) sauces and roasted almonds had the deep, rich, spicy flavours I crave from Middle-Eastern cuisine. A perfectly seared yellow fin tuna steak was spiced with schug ( a spicy and vegetal Yemeni-Jewish chilli and herb sauce) with half a caramelised lime adding a sweet acidity. I love this kind of fish cooking – robust elements bringing out the fish flavour not swamping it. Crispy chicken schnitzel with rocket salad was essentially posh chicken nuggets – non-greasy and given added zing by a caramelised lemon. A moreish apple, plum and orange blossom strudel came with toasted almonds and caramel pecan ice-cream. It’s wonderful to see the diversity of the Israeli food scene being reflected in London and I loved being able to sample great Israeli wine with flavour combinations I haven’t encountered before. The structure of the Sarona menu makes it a great place to go for anything from a drink and a snack to a real blowout. If you are in the area you should try it.
27 Clerkenwell Rd,
London, EC1M 5RN