Delamina

by Nick Harman - Sunday March 18, 2018 12:03 pm

56-58 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2NX

Fans of the cooking of Strut & Cluck no longer have to schlep over to Shoreditch

A pair of young and trendy tourists collared me at Oxford Circus and asked, bright-eyed, how they could get to ‘Zoredeetch’. I told them there wasn’t a tube station and they’d best get off at Old Street but they seemed amazed. Surely Shoreditch was the hub of everything?

Not all of us want to work, live, eat and play in Shoreditch. People like me, for instance. I’m happy staying in my old stomping ground of Soho. So, I was chuffed to hear the people behind Strut & Cluck in Shoreditch, husband and wife team Limor and Amir Chen, had opened Delamina a new place in Marylebone, a reasonably short walk away.

The decor is similar; light, airy and modern, and menu is the same as Strut & Cluck; they call it Eastern Mediterranean to avoid being pigeonholed, and it’s an eclectic and inspiring mix of Israeli, Lebanese, Iranian and more.

Emphasis is on fresh ingredients seasonal of course, although whose seasons is not clear. They like to roast and griddle things for health reasons, many of Delamina’s dishes are vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. So, plenty of choice for pesky, sorry picky, eaters.

Charcoaled leeks, crumbled manouri, dried apricots, roasted hazelnuts, crispy capers were rather wonderful, the leeks sweet as nuts and the hazelnuts as sweet as, well, hazelnuts.

The dried apricots were a texture twist and while I’ve never eaten a charred caper before it turned out to be something I’d happily do again. Manouri cheese is a by-product of feta making and is softer and smoother and I am now a fan.

Cauliflower continues to have its fifteen minutes of fame and why not? I do still like a cauliflower cheese for a midweek supper but it can be a bit watery. The answer is to roast it and at Delamina it turns up with the outer leaves blackened like it’s been through a forest fire but the florets are tender.

Doused in a lemon zest infused crème fraiche, drizzled with pomegranate molasses and scattered with seeds it was a belter of a dish, the sour sweet of the molasses evenly balancing the crème fraiche.

As usual for me, the pomegranate seeds were a bit irritating as they got caught in my teeth. This is just a personal problem and no reflection on the cooking.

Courgettes can be so mehhh, but drive out the moisture and they start to make more sense.

Grilled courgette two ways, crispy onions, pine kernels and a labneh drizzle turned this flaccid waterhog into a silk purse.

The crispy onions I could have eaten all day long and the rich labneh worked well; yoghurt always seems to enhance courgettes.

Usually I am done for after mezes in Middle Eastern restaurants and can only groan when the meat turns up.

Not at Delamina though, as the meat and fish is properly thought through and not the sort of thing that makes you call for a stretcher to carry you out.

The squid was interesting, marinated in za’atar then pan-seared, it came with crushed roasted tomatoes, caperberries and crisp cavolo nero. I didn’t care for the tomatoes much; they were a bit mushy and tasteless but then it’s hard to get good tomatoes at this time of year.

The caperberries and cavolo nero were good, but more of a garnish than a real presence. I did like the squid, more za’atar for me please, but at least I got to appreciate the squid as itself.

Moshe’s herbed and spiced angus beef and venison koftas were very good, I don’t know who Moshe is but I remember a famous Israeli with an eyepatch called Moshe.

The patties came on a cushion of creamy hummus and extra tahini, with grilled onions, harissa oil drizzle and those blasted pomegranate seeds.

The meat was well-flavoured and moist, even though venison can easily be cooked to dry with its low-fat content, and I loved the hot tickle of the harissa.

Given a pitta, I’d have made myself a very tasty ‘kebab’ out of this dish and pushed the pomegranate seeds to one side.

Last on the meat side of things was whole poussin deboned and glazed with ras-el-hanout and honey charcoal grilled and served with roasted sweet potato.

Poussin of course by its very nature is small, so it was the ideal size for our flagging appetites. Not a hint of dryness or toughness, instead it was soft and smoky and the spice mix sufficient and not overpowering, the honey was something of a masterstroke and the sweet potato just the thing to partner the meat.

Dessert of parfait of halva and roasted almonds, date syrup and raw tahini drizzle was indeed parfait. Soft and billowy, sweet and savoury and even a little astringent. I’m not a dessert fan usually, not having a sweet tooth, but this was simply irresistible in its complexity and simple tastiness.

Delamina was buzzing when we went in, a mix of local workers and local residents - it’s well-heeled and rather charming area - and there was a good atmosphere of happy eaters.

It seems just the thing to succeed, but I fear foreign tourists may have even more trouble pronouncing Marylebone than they do Shoreditch. So, do help them if you can.

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