46 Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead London NW3 1NH, UK delicatessen.company
Hampstead has long been a place that feels far more town than city, and in some ways, Delicatessen fits this mould perfectly.
Nestled neatly on Roslyn Hill, the space reflects that of a cafe and yet the thick hard wood tables and neatly arranged crockery speak of something greater. All in all, it’s an informal setting and one you immediately feel at ease in.
Steering the ship is Israeli-born chef Or Golan. Originally from Tel-Aviv, his food bears all the hallmarks of his previous exploits which include Brasserie M&R in Tel Aviv and Yotam Ottenlenghi in London, where he served as head chef.
Whilst my guest and I got to Delicatessen early, the tables quickly filled out with buzzy customers and post-work revellers. Given the warm weather we’ve been blessed with recently we chose to be seated outside, facing the street so that we may soak up the sun and watch the comings and goings of the locality.
The menu is colourful, varied and to someone with little knowledge of middle eastern food, it’s all very different. To get the show on the road we ordered a bottle of Gamla Chardonnay. This was dry and crisp and served ice cold made for a good start to a warm evening.
Starters were small plates to be shared. We began with shakshukit topped with Moroccan merguez (a delicious spicy lamb sausage) tanned aubergine and lambshuka.
The shakshukit is predominantly a spicy tomato sauce dotted with eggs, poached in the liquor. The sauce was deep, rich in tomato and offset with cumin. The eggs plonked in and amongst the sauce were still runny and a joy to dip into.
The lambshuka was simpler in composition, but no less appetising. It was bedded on some nutty tahini and topped with lots of fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds, adding bursts of sweetness. We found this was best mopped up with some bread leftover from the shakshukit.
The tanned aubergine was roasted until soft and sweet and dotted with fresh figs, tomatoes, dollops of tahini and finished with a dusting of sumac. What appeared to be an overzealous mix of ingredients, was actually a winning combination.
For mains, upon the recommendation of our adept waitress, Natalia, we went for duck breast, celeriac puree, glazed carrots and the spring chicken mesachen with sumac and zaatar, a dish no doubt inspired by Or’s time with Ottenlenghi.
The duck was cooked perfect pink and the skin was nicely crisp. A lovely smooth celaric puree was luscious and warming, helping to balance the sticky sweet carrots. I ate it all.
My guest had the chicken and loved it as much as I did the duck. This dish is best described an open wrap. The chicken is served on a laffa flatbread and topped generously with roasted sweet echalion shallots, pomegranate seeds and for a flourish it’s dotted with rose petals (not as potent as you might imagine).
By this point I was unsurprised to discover Or and his team are also talented in the pudding department. We succumbed to the persuasions of the Basbousa cake with tahini semifreddo and the malabi, a Middle Eastern milk pudding.
The cake was more of a sponge: light, porous and adept at soaking up a raspberry and lemon coulis. The tahini ice cream was great surprise and sweeter than I imagined.
The malabi sat flamboyantly, surrounded by passion fruit, rose petals, coconut and nut brittle. Although the additions were a nice touch, the star of the show was the velvety milk pudding. If you like creamy puddings, the malabi’s got your name on it.
This was a fun and vibrant meal, made by someone who clearly has a zest for life and the food that comes with it. The hearty portions speak of warmth, no different to when we cook for friends, family and loved ones.
When a menu is as deliberate and thoughtful as this, you know it comes from the heart and unsurprisingly, it tastes like it too.