Honey & Co’s little unit in Warren Street was always one of my favourite restaurants. I adored the simplicity of the setting and how it was juxtaposed with the complexity of the flavours. The original and, for me, the best of its genre, holding its own against the might of some of the bigger boys with deeper pockets (Ottolenghi, Palomar). And then they became ‘bigger’ themselves, opening Honey & Smoke on Great Portland Street so many more people could enjoy this amazing food, plus more iterations of it (as this is essentially a grill house), this time in a more spacious environment.
But as fabulous as H&S is, for me the original was where my heart always was, so I was very sad indeed when chef-owners Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich announced that the lease was up and they were closing it. Not sad for long though, as now they have a gorgeous new unit in Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury and this week we were invited there for lunch.
With 55 covers and a semi-private room that seats 12 it’s bright (but not too bright!) and buzzy, pretty and inviting, and has the feel of a special ‘club’ where if you know, you know. And we do know, of course, because we’ve been so many times before, that it’s nigh on impossible to choose just one starter and one main because it’s all so incredible and yet we also know we have to leave room for ‘that’ cheesecake. And so, we shared three starters and two mains from the ‘late autumn menu’ and didn’t have the bread (just eyed it enviously on the next table).
You’ve heard of the Bloomsbury set… well this could be described as the Bloomsbury set menu, and to be frank we wanted everything. The saffron poached pear and endive salad (£15.50), the beetroot sabzi (£12.50) and the spiced pumpkin falafel (£12.50) are a colourful and tasty foil against the grey December cold. The gentle sweetness of the bright yellow-tinged and honeyed pears expertly cuts through the bitter crunch of the endive. The accompanying walnut and tahini purée made is a lovely extra touch – and thankfully we can recreate it, along with the entire recipe, as our friendly waiter shared that it is included in the Honey & Co: At Home recipe book.
We couldn’t stop eating the beetroot sabzi: a deep and luscious burgundy bounty featuring a riot of fresh herbs, pickled grapefruit slices, radishes and julienned strips of fennel. Thin slices of chilli cue a slight kick. A winter revelation – and another dish we want to recreate year-round. While it is not in any of their cookbooks, an internet search revealed it featured in one of their FT columns. Result! This is a definite keeper.
Teardrop-shaped pumpkin falafel, crispy on the outside and soft and luscious inside, are a seasonal twist on the usual chickpea balls, with silan-laced (date syrup) tahini to dip them into and a tomato, chilli and clementine salad on the side.
We were already feeling full, as we found it difficult to leave any of the above but, dear reader, we persevered, ordering the madfunia (£23.50) and the roasted mauve aubergine (£24). Warming madfunia – slow-cooked chicken thighs with chestnuts and dried figs beneath a crisp kadaif pastry topping – made us feel like we were being coddled under a heated blanket with a glass of mulled wine via the Christmas spices. Find this recipe in Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East. An accompanying pickled fig salad provides the pizazz.
The aubergine is oven-baked with a tahini crust and served with a luscious jewelled rice salad with cranberries, lime, deep-red pomegranate seeds and cubes of butternut squash lifting it with a lovely pop of colour and crunch. This is also shared in Honey & Co: At Home.
Of course, we really were stuffed by this point. But, as everyone knows, dessert goes to a different part of – yada yada – and we wanted to make sure their signature feta and honey cheesecake on a kadaif base was still good. With salted nuts providing an antidote to the honey-drizzled soft cheese and vermicelli-like crisp pastry this is a creamy, crunchy, sweet and savoury treat that has been oft-imitated but never beaten. Don’t try this at home. Go to Honey & Co’s new home for the original and the best.
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