The Bethlehem Oven in Soho – Tabun Kitchen
The Fatet Jaj Chicken at Tabun Kitchen was quite the prettiest rice and chicken dish I’ve seen for a while. Delicious too – it’s a mix of shredded lemon chicken, rice, hummus sauce, chill, toasted pine nuts and sauteed garlic. Tabun kitchen is a Palestinian restaurant in Soho which serves street food and family-style dishes of food from Bethlehem.
Founded by Hanan Kattan, whose parents are from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she has used her vast knowledge of the local cuisines to create a cosy place in the heart of Soho, where you’ll find banquette seating and cafe style tables and a menu that takes Palestinian home cooking to a new level. We went along to find out more and feasted on traditional Palestinian food.
Starting with Mezze and bread seemed appropriate and each one of the dishes was excellent. An ultra smooth hummus, deliciously seasoned smoked aubergine moutabal and ful mudammas were accompanied by homemade bread. My only complaint was that there really wasn’t enough bread and I’d have happily eaten the same again.
Perhaps we should have asked – but one small bread portion per person just didn’t seem enough. That might have been partly because it was very good of course…
Falafal were delicate and moist with a beautifully crunchy coating and a piquant sumac dip. I don’t believe we had what was listed on the menu – a tahini-tossed salad, but the mixture was very good indeed.
I loved my Fatet Jah Chicken and the Tabbouleh which we ordered as a side dish was beautifully balanced, full of fresh parsley and very refreshing.
My companion had no complaints at all about his own dish of Samake Harrah seabass, with a chilli and herb dressing which he said was exactly what he would have expected if he’d been in Bethlehem himself.
We were quite full but in the interest of research decided to order dessert.
Baklava arrived quickly. Small, flaky morsels of pistachio and honey-drenched pastry. I loved them, though my companion yearned for the larger and squidgier variety you sometimes find in Greece and Turkey.
Our second dessert, a traditional Kanafeh, went missing. Ten minutes later, after tea and coffee, we asked what had happened. Apparently, the kitchen had run out – which might well have been a good thing for my failing attempts to diet. In something of an afterthought, they brought a portion of rose and pistachio infused Muhulabieh milk pudding, but by then neither of us had the heart to eat anymore.
We found the service overall a little too haphazard to be effective. The waiters are equipped with iPads but seem to struggle to use them. And, when we ordered a glass of Sauvignon blanc each to accompany one dish of fish and one of chicken we were brought the red Sauvignon. But, despite the apparent technological challenge of placing an order, all the food was excellent.
While we loved the food at Tabun Kitchen, the service means that we would both need convincing to return. And, that’s a shame because it should be a great addition to the Soho food scene. Maybe it’s teething problems. Certainly, the Christmas menu sounds almost tempting enough…with starters including Hanan’s family recipe of Bethlehem Meatball Soup, and mains including a fabulous sounding dish of Roasted Sumac-Marinated Poussin. So, maybe I’ll try again before Christmas – at £40 a head including a welcome cocktail and three courses, the special menu sounds like quite a bargain.
Tabun Kitchen is open 7 days a week. For reservations call 020 7324 7767, 77 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8TH