Sunday, 11 December 2016

Honey & Smoke - All about Mezze

We were fans of Honey & Co and so were naturally keen to check out Honey & Smoke when they finally decided to expand. 

The decor was frankly strange. The plastic table and chairs, shallow alcoves along the wall and strange rail lighting that lit half the room with bright spotlights while keeping the other half in the shadow - there was little ambience to speak of. It reminded me of a student hall common room or the dining area of a very average European hostel, one without much character. Though much more spacious than the cosy Honey & Co, this space didn’t look or feel like a restaurant.

Moroccan Sourdough, olives from Kalamata, Pickles, vegetables & Greek olive oil
The only thing he eats on this nibble platter is olive oil with the bread, which he enjoyed – possibly because he did a 15min dash and was happy to munch on anything. The pickles and olives were nothing special, not sure if we needed it.

Share of all Mezze:
Charred blush pears, almond tahini, raw honey
This was delicious, one of my favourites along with the burnt celeriac. The wedges of pear were sweet, juicy and crunchy with gently charred skin for some smokiness, paired beautifully with the subtly nutty, velvety tahini. Luxuriously rich without the guilt. 

Warm goats cheese, red onion, walnut & pomegranates (left) & Falafel, tahini (right)
The soft goats cheese was reined in by the caramelised onions, which wasn’t particularly sweet; the familiar combination of flavours were challenged by the slightly crushed bitter walnut and sprinkles of pomegranates, giving a little twist to the mix. The falafels were alright, not worth writing home about.

Cauliflower florets with homemade amba & tahini (right) & Msabaha – chickpeas cooked overnight, Turkish pepper & garlic sauce (left)
The tender cauliflower florets were delicious with mango jam, fruity and tangy, neutralised by the omnipresent tahini. We weren’t mad about the chickpeas though; I don’t usually like peas anyway, and the spices came out slightly flat – reminded me of a heartless daal.

Beetroot baked in ashes, citrus and mint (right) & Burnt celeriac, urfa chilli butter, sour cream & chives (centre)
The beetroot was a hit and miss; the sweet juicy beets were earthy and moreish, but the grapefruits were less enticing. We occasionally stumbled upon a bitterly sour chunk of grapefruit, which made our eyes water a little. The soft discs of celeriac were subtly fragrant and nutty, brought out the luscious richness of the buttery cream, quite simply delightful.

Baba ganoush – burnt aubergine dip, seeded lavoush

Just like Honey & Co, the mezze were mostly excellent. I may even say they are even better here at Honey & Smoke – more sophisticated and more flavoursome.

Hamama pigeon with sweet onion, pine nuts & sultanas, as they do in ‘Philadelphia’ restaurant, East Jerusalem
When taking our orders, our server checked with us that we were okay with the pigeon served rare or very pink. Yep - how they should be. Unfortunately it arrived parched and burnt. There was very little pink left when we cut open the bird, it was mostly cooked through with no juice left. The burntness gave the skin an unpleasant bitterness, mixed with the charcoal-ed spices, leaving a horrible taste in mouth that not even the sultana could overcome.

We were disappointed and provided feedback to our server that we didn't enjoy the pigeon. The manager was truly apologetic and offered to take the pigeon off the bill. 

Lamb Chops in tahini BBQ sauce & charred plums
The lamb chops were much better, cooked through but the meat retained its juices with a slightly charred rind of fat. The marinade could have been stronger though, the flavours were drowned by the sweet and tangy fruit.

Sweet potatoes, Lebanese zaatar and lemon (front) & M’jadra, lentil rice with cumin and caramelised onions (back)
The sides were not too interesting, just a baked sweet potato with a drizzle of lemon and sprinkle of herbs. The lentil and rice mixture was laced with plenty of pungent cumin, a tad too strong for my liking.

Feta & Honey cheese cake on a kadaif base
This dessert alone is a good reason to come back to Honey & Smoke. This is like a deconstructed knafeh - crispy thin vermicelli noodle base soaked with honey, topped with soft creamy cheese. So simple yet so good.

Warm chestnut cake with salt caramel and sour cream
The chestnut in the cake was barely noticeable, very moist and soft. The viscous caramel worked well with the dollop of sour cream.

I had mixed feelings for Honey & Smoke. Despite the incredibly delectable mezze starters, the mains were less accomplished as Honey & Co, the control on the grill could have been better and the flavours could have been more exciting. Not to mention the lacklustre decor and ambience. Think we'll stick to Honey & Co.

216 Great Portland Street
Tel: 0207 388 6175

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