New restaurant pop-up offers tastes of the Levant region in Fitzrovia
Ceru in London offers affordable mezzes served as shared plates.
Ceru, the popular Middle Eastern street food vendor, pops-up in its temporary Fiztrovia home until end of April. Ceru offers Levant regional flavors from Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Turkey with an extensive all-day food and drink menu.
Though housed in a tiny space, Ceru’s layout is just as smart and subtly hip as its Fitzrovia environs, outfitted with tanned woods, cerulean accents, and bright yellow furnishings, including “skateboard” seats nestled under the bar.
There you’ll find affordable mezzes served as shared plates, and the great balance of fish, vegetarian, and certified-halal meat dishes are sure to appease everyone’s preferences. Ethical eats are a priority here too, as executive chef Tom Kline locally sources ingredients and strictly uses sustainably caught seafood in his kitchen.
Those seeking Middle Eastern dishes beyond the usual hummus and kebabs will be spoilt for choice at Ceru. Start with a fadi, a pita-ready dip of fried baby zucchini puree with tahini, roast garlic, yogurt, and lemon. For mains, their karaz spiced baked lamb meatballs with sweet and sour cherry and cranberry sauce is a winner, as is their seared sea bream with oregano and chili.
Won’t be in London in time to try their lovely pop-up? The Ceru team will return to their vendor roots and appear at food festivals around the U.K. beginning in May 2015.
CERU Soho – Review
I originally came across CERU a few years back as a 20 seater three-month pop up in Fitzrovia serving Executive Chef Tom Kime&rsquos 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&rsquove been asked to come to D&rsquoArblay 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&rsquos 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 &ldquoSpiked&rdquo Turkish apple tea with Morgan&rsquos 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 &lsquoDips&rsquo section on the menu. At CERU Soho, we chose the colourful &lsquoThree in One&rsquo 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&rsquos 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&rsquos great to see how it has transitioned from a pop-up to a fully fledged groupette of restaurants. There&rsquos 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&rsquos a great place to meet friends and family or go on a date night for a taste of something different.
11 D&rsquoArblay Street,
London, W1F 8DS
What’s on the menu
To get going on our Levantine journey we dipped into the dips. I’m a big fan of dips, and these were in a league of their own. We went for a Three in One – a spoonful of our choice of three of the delicious dips. A colourful plate of deliciousness was delivered to our table along with a basket of fresh, warm and flavoursome pitta bread.
The three offerings were a traditional houmous (you’ve always got to try the humous). Then Pancar which is made from roasted beetroot, yogurt, garlic and crushed pistachio. And also Ceru Hammara – tangy red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. All fabulous, with the Hammara winning the prize as our favorite – as a result I’m on a mission to recreate it at home.
The vibrant plate of three top dips
The dips were served with the softest, warm pitta bread, clearly straight out of the oven and the perfect accompaniment.
The softest of warm pitta bread
Aulis London Pops Up at Aulis Hong Kong
As we all know, international travel plans are stalled for the moment – meaning that a trip to London anytime soon is off the cards. Fortunately, Aulis London is coming to us this June!
Every Sunday from 7–28 June, Aulis Hong Kong will transform into a casual all-day dining venue as it hosts a special pop-up by Aulis London. This unique pop-up will allow diners to experience the London restaurant’s innovative dining concept first-hand.
Aulis London is a stand-alone development kitchen for acclaimed chef Simon Rogan’s London-based team at Michelin-starred Roganic London. A cross between a private chef’s table and a behind-the-scenes development kitchen, the Aulis concept allows diners an intimate glimpse into the chefs’ innovative work.
Aulis London’s pop-up will allow Hong Kong guests to sample some of the restaurant’s more casual signature dishes such as the salmon muffin with beetroot- and orange-cured salmon, homemade English muffin and whipped horseradish, a refined chicken waffle with fried chicken and birch-sap butter and pork-head crumpet.
Guests can build their own tasting courses by choosing any three dishes ($280) or five dishes ($450).
Those with a sweet tooth should not miss new dessert creations such as the warm cherry cake infused with Earl Grey chocolate, which is garnished with home-grown marigolds, and pine doughnuts filled with custard.
A selection of beverages can be added on, including Simon Rogan’s very own Anvil Beer ($96), a pale ale brewed in the Lake District of England, freshly made lemonade ($55) and coffee or tea ($55).
Guests may choose from seven two-hour-long slots throughout the day on 7, 14, 21 (Father’s Day) and 28 June, starting from 9am and ending with the last slot at 9pm.
Ceru brings Levantine cooking home
Restaurants have a lot of trouble with no-shows, where customers book a table but do not turn up. It must be difficult for restaurateurs now to discover that sometimes the customer has a no-show, a home meal kit that is ordered but not delivered. This was my first experience of Ceru and had I not been invited to review their newly launched cook-at-home kit, I might well have been annoyed that my dinner table remained stubbornly empty on a Friday night. As it was, Barry Hilton, founder of Ceru called me twice during the evening, concerned to find that I had not yet received the order. I appreciated his professionalism and the incident set me thinking about the logistics of this growing trend where partly cooked meals are being delivered not only across London but sometimes nationally. This leaves restaurateurs reliant on courier services that deliver these home-meal kits from central hubs. This is unlike a takeaway where a Deliveroo driver picks up the cooked meal and drops it at your door. My reflections made me realise how well functioning courier logistics are in the hospitality industry that has ensured that the growing number of home &ndash meal kits I have reviewed since lockdown have all arrived on time.
All was well by lunchtime on Saturday when Barry arranged for a driver to deliver a Ceru cook-at-home kit to my home. Returning from a long walk, I found a box waiting patiently on my doorstep. It was packed with recyclable ice packs, keeping the contents cool and safe. On opening the box I was delighted to find a beautiful parcel. Usually, the home-meal kit arrives with the component parts packed together &ndash sometimes in very fancy packaging as reflects the budget of the restaurant. Ceru wraps their kits in attractive satin silk cloths, a different design for each of the four meal-kits on offer. Two geometric designs are based on beautiful tiles of the Levant while the others are animal motifs. If you want to collect all four designs you can do so by ordering a selection of meal kits or buying them online from the restaurant. It is a lovely idea and very effective in setting the scene for the Levantine meal to come.
Ceru is situated in a side street in South Kensington not far from Museum Road which visitors to London will know for its wonderful collection of some of the UK&rsquos finest museums including the V&A, The Natural History and The Science Museums. Ceru is an eatery that aims to share the flavours of the Levant, a geographical area spanning the Eastern Mediterranean as far as Turkey. The bricks and mortar restaurant offers a menu of mezze and grills (mostly gluten-free) while the home-meal kits provide a vegan option, slow-cooked lamb, beef fillet or chicken. I chose the chicken shish menu which feeds two people and can be prepared within 25 minutes. The preparation instructions were very easy to follow, well laid out and with precise timings provided for each individual item that was to be cooked. I found this most helpful in ensuring that all the components were ready to serve at the same time. This is important because this style of cooking works best when all the small plates are presented at once, leaving diners free to dip into each of the dishes prepared.
When we sat down to eat, the table looked most inviting with an array of dips and dishes. The Chicken Taouk (meaning chicken) is a very popular dish across the Levant, a skewer of chicken breast cubes marinated in paprika and lemon. It had to be pan-fried &ndash I used a griddle pan to get the attractive markings on the meat &ndash and then served them on skewers. It was quick and simple to cook and tasty too. It was served with a herby yoghurt which was really deliciously creamy. Alongside was a dish of Hamarra Dip, a brick coloured dip with which I am familiar from my love of Iranian cuisine. It is made with roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses and while I prefer it a bit chunky in texture, the Ceru dip had a good colour and balance between spiciness and the tart flavour of the pomegranate molasses.
I liked the polenta fries very much. Preparation involved a light dip in gluten-free flour and then eight minutes in hot oil and a few extra minutes in a hot oven. They emerged with a golden colour, a nice crunch and were rather moreish. I liked the hit of chilli as it mixed with the cooling mint yoghurt into which the polenta fries could be dipped.
Cauliflower has for many years now been elevated to celebrity vegetable status. It is served in restaurants up and down the land and home cooks too know their way around roasting the florets into a multitude of spicy delights. Ceru&rsquos Spiced Cauliflower had a lovely turmeric hue and looked very appealing mixed with lemony olive oil, and garnished with chopped walnuts, sliced spring onions, chopped mint and pomegranate seeds.
Flatbreads are an important part of enjoying a Levantine meal, providing chewy ballast for the dips and sauces. Two small flatbreads were provided, just needing a trickle of olive oil and five minutes in a hot oven.
Two tiny pieces of baklava were provided by way of a sweet treat to end the meal. Baklava needs to be super fresh and is not the best traveller, this one being rather soggy.
At £40 for the chicken shish menu, portions looked to me on the small side, yet we were comfortably full after the meal.
The chicken shish menu is a family-friendly meal, just the kind one would hope to find after a long day on Museum Road. With the newly launched Ceru cook-at-home kits, we can all enjoy it at our own tables.
Share All sharing options for: A Perfect Tahini Recipe From a Pita Pop-Up Chef
Tahini — that slick, beige, vaguely nutty liquid gold — often pops up in sandwiches or pitas, in salad dressings or in a marinade, adding the perfect depth of flavor to transform any dish. And it goes without saying that a giant dollop of tahini should top (or be whipped into) every bowl of hummus.
But spooned out on its own, raw tahini can taste rather bitter, so chef Zoë Komarin of Zoë Food Party — a sold-out pita party in Los Angeles — has suggestions for upping the tahini in your pantry. Below is Komarin’s basic tahini recipe, demonstrated on Instagram Live as part of the Eater @ Home virtual event series. She notes that the proportions can be eyeballed, since each tahini behaves a little differently but the recipe is a great starting point to get comfortable, before you start switching it up with ponzu or adding loads of minced herbs and crushed garlic.
Watch Komarin whip up tahini (and some fun salad and sandwich options as well) and check out her recipe for the perfect tahini below.
1 cup of raw tahini
Juice from one lemon
1 ⁄2 to 1 cup ice water (as needed)
Pinch of salt
Dump your raw tahini into a bowl. (Tip from Komarin: Look for tahini that doesn’t have a noticeable layer of oil on top, as this often signifies old tahini. Har Bracha is a favorite.)
Squeeze lemon juice and mix thoroughly and with gusto the mixture will darken and seize up and resemble wet sand.
Now more than ever, it’s vital to support the restaurant industry. The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry and the workers who power it. To offer your support, Komarin suggests donating to The Street Vendor Emergency Fund and No Us Without You.
Slowly add ice water while you mix. As you reconstitute the tahini will lighten, thin out, and begin to look shiny.
Add salt to taste. (This is also the part where you would add other mix-ins like garlic, cumin, and herbs.)
Meat-Free Drive Thru Pops Up in London with Discount for Cyclists
How many times have we been told that fast food is bad for us? Well, that’s not always the case, as the UK’s first plant-based drive thru – launching this week in London – aims to prove.
British meat-alternative brand Meatless Farm is launching the plant-based drive thru over August bank holiday weekend to show that fast food can be better for you, better for the planet and still taste incredible.
According to a report produced by Dr Joseph Poore, if everyone in the UK swapped just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it could cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8.4% – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road.
That’s a great statistic, but one that does leave us scratching our heads over the decision to go for a drive-thru. But there is method behind the madness… Our choices are often driven (no pun intended) by convenience, and there’s nothing more convenient than a drive thru, right?
Taking over the American Car Wash in Shoreditch from Wednesday 26 August until bank holiday Monday (31 August), the six-day pop-up will also have a dedicated walk-thru lane for cyclists and pedestrians, and those who pull up in an electric car, or on a bike or e-scooter, will get 50% off.
But when it comes to food, it needs to taste great too. That’s where street-food maestro Mother Flipper comes in, collaborating with Meatless Farm to create meat-free dirty burgers that are packed full of flavour, texture and juicy brilliance.
The menu will feature Meatless Farm’s much talked about McBluffin, a plant-based take on the world’s favourite fast food breakfast, as well as the Mother Flipper x Meatless Farm Cheeseburger, The Greta (served with aubergine candy bacon) and sides like dirty fries with Meatless Farm mince chilli and vegan cheese sauce.
‘The only way to get the world eating more sustainably is to make delicious food’
‘We’ve been working hard over many years to perfect our original burger patty recipe,’ said Morten Toft-Bech, Founder of Meatless Farm.
‘Our unique blending process uses ingredients like pea protein alongside other plant-based goodness to create a remarkably meaty experience.
‘The only way to get the world eating more sustainably is to make delicious food. We hope that our M*** F*** drive thru is another step towards making plant-based a preference rather than an option.’
The Drive Thru is part of Meatless Farm’s recent controversial M*** F*** campaign, which encourages meat eaters to eat plant-based food more often.
All burgers will be served veggie as standard, with vegan versions also available.
Open 11am-3pm every day from 26-31 August at 35 Great Eastern Street, Hackney EC2A 3ER @meatlessfarm
The world’s spirits are like any one of us. They’ve each got their likes and dislikes, and their friends and enemies. Some of them are solitary sorts, not much given to mixing with their peers. Chinese baijiu might be a fascinating and heady spirit when sipped in little (but frequently refilled) thimble-cups alongside double-sautéed pork or salt-baked squid, but just try fixing cocktails with it. (It even makes a lousy Old Fashioned, and nothing makes a lousy Old Fashioned.)
Others are utterly, unashamedly promiscuous. That vodka? It’ll mix with anything it’s the Vince Vaughn of spirits.
Like the rest of us, though, most varieties of hooch fall somewhere in between. Rye loves sweet vermouth, will mix with brandy if it has to and doesn’t get along at all with dry vermouth. Scotch tolerates sweet vermouth, has a secret affection for all things orange and—well, that’s about it.
Rum and lime enjoy true, undying love, never to be parted, but rum plays around on the side with brandy, bringing a wild funkiness to that spirit’s smoothness. At the same time, lime has a little thing going on with tequila, which in turn engages in a torrid fling with the sweet lushness that is crème de cassis. It’s that kind of world. As the Booze Pours.
Among the strangest relationships is the interspecies ménage à trois pursued by gin, lemon juice and egg white. Here you have gin, a lean, odoriferous sort of liquor with a long and sometimes distinguished pedigree—and yet, it’s an easy, casual mixer. Over here you have the egg white, soft, yielding, even slippery, with only one thing on its mind: a desire to be soundly whipped.
And lemon juice—well, everybody knows how much lemon juice likes the sauce, and it’s been cohabitating with egg whites since at least 1862, when Jerry Thomas suggested that “lemonade will be much improved by having the white of an egg beaten up with it.” Combine all three and you have something greater than the sum of its parts: the gin loses its tough, bitter edge, the lemon juice gets brighter and more fragrant, and the egg white takes on an unexpected light, frothy opacity.
The first actual drink to make full use of this raffish trio was the Silver Fizz, an early variation on the Gin Fizz. The Silver Fizz pops up in New York (and, soon after, everywhere else) in the early 1880s, a scant half-decade after we first see the plain version appear. “A body of creamy liquid topped by about an inch of frothy foam,” as the Chicago Tribune described it in 1883, this “very tempting” quick refresher rapidly gained a reputation, in an age before Alka-Seltzer, as the morning stomach-settler par excellence.
Add a splash of cream and a couple drops of orange flower water and shake it until all the ice has melted, as Henry C. “Carl” Ramos would start doing at his New Orleans bar in 1887, and you have something so delectable as to invite comparisons to Mediterranean sunsets, mountain meadows and poems of old. His Ramos Gin Fizz is still a popular cocktail on menus around the country.
Some 40 years later, Harry Craddock, at the Savoy Hotel in London, would substitute Cointreau for the sugar in the Silver Fizz and take the combination in a slightly different direction with his White Lady, perhaps the greatest of all art-deco cocktails.
Ceru: Levantine Pop Up in Fitzrovia
There really is no shortage of respectable places to eat in Fitrovia. Grabbing a slice of the action with its Levantine cuisine is, Ceru. Ceru sits in a prime location on the corner of Rathbone Place with a great view to people watch from. This pop up restaurant, with its bright yellow and blue décor is small inside, but the food big and bold in flavour.
A fabulously tarty Passionista cocktail
A select amount of dishes make up the meze style menu. One to two dishes are a little overpriced for what you get like the apple, pomegranate and mint salad at £6.50, but overall the pricing is reasonable for the quality of food. Must haves are the dips, in particular the Spicy Red Roast Pepper and Fadi (courgette and tahini puree) – both extremely tasty.
Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder
with Sharwama Spices
The standout and absolute must order is Slow Roast Lamb Shoulder with Sharwama Spices. What makes this dish brilliant is the succulence of the meat, great depth of flavour and textural combinations given by the addition of pistachio nuts and pomegranate, which nicely cuts through the fat of the lamb. A shout out also goes to the Ice-Cream Baklava, it’s a beautiful creative take on the classic, sweet middle eastern pastry.
Ice-Cream Baklava on the left
Yoghurt, Pistachio and Walnut Cake to the right
view from within
The food at Ceru is pure sunshine on a plate – colourful, fresh and bold. You have another month or so to catch their vibrant flavours of the Middle East.
Just Open: Ceru, Potts PointSignature dish at Ceru, Potts Point - slow roast lamb shoulder, shawarma spices, pomegranate, mint and pistachio dressing. Photo: Supplied
Sydney's latest restaurant opening might prove to be the city's most border-hopping offering of 2016. The food sweeps the Middle East, the menu was road-tested in London, and the design hinges heavily on the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui. "The site [next to the Larmont hotel on Kings Cross Road] had such a chequered past I called in a feng shui master," says Tom Kime, the English chef and co-owner at Ceru, which opens January 21.
The result of that consultation saw a planned black floor become grey, the ceiling recreated into a flat surface and more non-alcoholic drinks introduced to the bar menu to "cool the fire". Kime pulled out the black and gold fittings of the sites last restaurant, replacing them with materials including copper and reclaimed fence panels.
His business partners also have global aspirations for Ceru, trialling Kime's dishes in recent months at Ceru in London. The most popular dish was slow-roast lamb shoulder with shawarma spices and pomegranate while the chermoula-roasted beetroot was also a fast mover. "The food is inspired by places like Syria and Lebanon. That [part of the world] is such a quagmire at the moment, it's devastating to me people aren't able to go there and try it all themselves."
Breakfast wrap with grilled haloumi, fried egg, spinach & cumin at Ceru, Potts Point. Photo: Supplied
Mon 7am-11pm Tues-Fri 7am-midnight Sat 8am-midnight Sun 8am-10pm.