There are many cuisines I have had the privilege to sample, and still there are many left that I am yet to try. Palestinian food is one of them and, truth be told, one I didn’t know much about. So when a foodie friend of mine visited recently I jumped on the chance to take her to the recently reopened Tabun Kitchen in Soho, so we could both explore the world of Palestinian dining a little further.
After an extensive refurbishment, Tabun Kitchen in Berwick Street reopened last month. The restaurant takes its name from the word Tabun, a traditional Palestinian oven and one that is in use in this Soho establishment.
The restaurant was designed by its founder Hanan Kattan, an award-winning entrepreneur and film producer. Kattan, who’s rich family background includes a Jerusalem-born mother and a Bethlehem-born father, said: “Tabun Kitchen is a tribute to my Palestinian heritage and evenings spent in our ancestral home in Bethlehem with family and friends sharing food and bread from the Tabun oven. It’s exciting to bring this food to the plates of Soho.”
We visited one early evening mid-week, the place was half full, but started to fill up very quickly shortly afterwards. Our visit started a bit chaotic, with our reservation nowhere to be found. Once we were seated, the confusion continued, as we had two different waiters looking after us, both unsure about the purpose of our visit, and about what we should be eating and drinking.
We finally settled down and after a lot of back and forth, we ordered our food.
As a starter, we shared ‘Jerusalem Udssieh’, which was a bowl of freshly made hummus, fava beans, chilli and garlic lemon dressing, and a portion of ‘Grilled Halloumi’. For main, my friend had the ‘Lamb Makloubeh’ – a slow-cooked lamb with thyme-grilled vegetables, rice and pine nuts. I opted for the ‘Samake Harra’, which was a whole grilled fish of the day with a very generous serving chilli and herb dressing.
Our initial bitterness had disappeared over the course of our meal and a few glasses of the house white wine, and we decided to stay for a dessert. At least that was the plan. We tried picking a couple of treats from the menu to share, but turned out three weren’t even available, which left not much else we really craved for. We were then offered something that wasn’t even on the menu, by which point we decided to call it a night.
Tabun Kitchen offers a modern take on Palestinian cooking with Middle Eastern influence, and it works well. There was a saying painted on the wall which read “From the Tabuns of Palestine, To the Plates of Soho” – and it seemed very fitting.
This venue is a place where you would pop in for a quick bite to eat on your way home or stop for a quick catch up with friends before a night out. It is not a type of place where you would want to spend hours in. And that’s completely ok, it is not trying to be what it is not and it fulfills its purpose.
The food was fresh and undoubtedly tasty, hard to fault, but unfortunately our overall experience was let down by the service and the atmosphere.
- For more information and bookings visit: www.tabunkitchen.com. Tabun Kitchen, 77 Berwick St, Soho, London W1F 8TH; Telephone: 020 7324 7767.