Tabun Kitchen: Where Palestinian heritage meets a modern mix
Hummus lovers, rejoice, I may have just discovered the best hummus in London, just in time for International Hummus Day. With its creamy consistency, smooth taste and rich flavour, it has easily qualified as one of the best, if not the best, hummus I have ever tasted.
Where can you find this delight, you ask? Well, nestled nicely in the dynamic streets of Soho, is a little gem by the name of Tabun Kitchen – London's modern Palestinian restaurant.
The name itself, Tabun, means oven; a centrepiece of Palestinian cooking for centuries, and this is what the place prides itself on: heritage, while offering fresh new twists on traditional classics, like musakhan or makloubeh.
'A modern slant to a truly delicious and ancient cuisine,' is how the restaurant describes itself.
Opening its doors in September 2016, the restaurant boasts an amalgamation of Palestinian customs set in a contemporary vibe, both in food and in style. It seeks to bring food from the streets of Jerusalem partnered perfectly with that warm Palestinian hospitality.
Diners are welcomed by a stunning shot of The Dome of the Rock, setting the scene for what is in store. The interior – like its food – fuses traditional culture with a modern approach. There is also a room downstairs for a more intimate experience or private bookings for larger groups.
|What's on offer? Tabun Kitchen's menu|
The founder of Tabun Kitchen, Hannan Kattan tells me that she wanted to reveal Palestinian culture through food in a contemporary way, but, she urges, without compromising on taste.
"It's my mother's and grandmother's recipes of traditional Jerusalem food but with a modern twist," she explains.
Her mother's family are from Jerusalem and her father's from Bethlehem, she herself was raised in a Palestinian household in Jordan.
Through Tabun Kitchen, Hannan says she wanted to reflect the urban, educated Palestinian community, something she feels we do not see enough of.
Tabun Kitchen's aim and its ambience are certainly captivating, but what about the food?
We start the night with a mini mezze consisting of hummus, moutabal smoked aubergine and smoked ful mudammas fava beans. The small dishes are accompanied by miniature pitta breads. Full of flavour, the mezze goes down a treat as we zealously dip our warm bread into the small plates on offer.
We also go for the Tabun salad, a simple house salad, but oh, so delicious. I loved the combination of the distinctive ingredients, like the sujuk meat, the pomegranate and the coriander. Together they give a new meaning to a mundane salad.
|Mini mezze and Tabun salad|
We wash down the starters with a mint lemonade and a pomegranate lemonade. If you are, however, feeling more adventurous, there are Palestinian wines on offer – a red Taybeh Merlot from the Deir Rafat vineyard or a Taybeh Sauvignon Blanc with a "fresh citrus finish".
The service seems slightly slow post starters and we end up waiting around for a while for the mains to arrive. We opt for the traditional plates on offer on the menu of musakhan chicken, which is shredded sumac roast chicken with pine nuts in a flatbread and the lamb makloubeh, shredded lamb with rice and pine nuts.
Our mains finally arrive, looking every bit divine as I imagined them to be. The portion size though, is very disappointing – we were ready for a bigger feast! Tabun Kitchen markets itself as a Jerusalem street food restaurant, so while the size makes sense, the price doesn't really reflect the portion size.
Nevertheless, we dig in.
|Mains of Musakhan Chicken and Lamb Makloubeh|
|Lamb Makloubeh, shredded lamb with rice and pine nuts|
The lamb is tender and beautifully complemented by the soft cooked tomatoes and flavoursome rice. The musakhan chicken has a slight lemon tang to it, which I quite enjoy, and like the makloubeh, is accompanied wonderfully well with the pine nuts. A little more of the musakhan would have been nice though.
We end the night with a delectable dessert, knafeh. Again, I'm going to make a bold statement and say, this is one of the best I have had. With akkawi cheese, a white brine Palestinian cheese from the city of Acre, kataifi pastry and an orange blossom syrup, it was heaven on a plate.
Be warned, however, this is an overwhelmingly sweet dessert, so make sure you have a glass of water, or two, to hand.
I also wanted to try awameh, the Jerusalem-style crisp mini doughnuts, but sadly they were unavailable that night.
Other options include muhulabieh, a rose scented milk pudding with crushed pistachios and orange blossom honey, or if you're feeling like cake with your coffee, then the hariseh cake could be for you with semolina, coconut and again, orange blossom syrup.
You really cannot go wrong with Tabun Kitchen's Knafeh
Overall, Tabun Kitchen is a true treasure. It has a cosy and casual environment, so if like me, you're a "take your laptop to a cafe and work from there" kind of person, this could be your new place to hang.
Not only is the coffee exquisite, but the breakfast and lunch menu are just as appetizing. From a Jerusalem breakfast of zaatar manaeesh and shakshuka eggs, to lunchtime burgers, wraps and falafel, you really cannot go wrong here.
As a place for dinner, it has a little way to go, but the restaurant is still fairly new, and full of potential, so I'm excited to see what the future holds for this place.
Alcohol served: Yes
Follow Tabun Kitchen on Twitter: @TabunKitchen