Amid the current plague that is shutting our beloved restaurants down, a tale of two pop-ups that were so successful that they managed to turn permanent, gladdens the heart and raises a smile on our faces.
Strut and Cluck in Shoreditch came to my attention back when I worked for a company looking at the sustainability aspect of restaurants. The reason it sparked my interest was because the restaurant claimed to be the first to serve up free-range turkey. Firstly, seeing turkey on a menu outside of the Christmas season is about as common as a blue moon, but to be serving it free-range was something really special indeed. To my constant annoyance, I still have not actually eaten here despite having spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the menu, reading their newsletter, and drooling over the many, many Instagram posts that feature this restaurant’s food. So when the news that husband and wife team Limor and Amir Chen were to open a second restaurant in Marylebone, I jumped at the chance to visit.
You can find sister-restaurant Delamina a couple of roads back from Oxford Street’s Debenhams. Light, wooden and reminiscent of a John Lewis tool shed, Delamina serves up a menu inspired by the couple’s Eastern Mediterranean heritage, with some Tel Aviv, Russian and Iranian influences thrown into the mix. By a sheer stroke of luck, I am certain that we ended up with the best seats in the house. On entering, we were led past the bar, down a flight of stairs and to the table sat directly in front of the pass in the basement seating area. This gave us prime view into the kitchen to oversee how the chef’s were faring on their second day of service.
Vegetables dominate the menu here offering up a choice of mouth-watering sounding dishes, ranging from snacks to full-blown main course sizes. We eventually selected four vegetarian, one meat and one fish dish to share, ensuring that we got some must-have ingredients and flavours, such as hummus, za’atar, and harissa, into the mix.
Our first plate to arrive was the pita balagan. Roughly translating as “hullabaloo” in Hebrew, the balagan is a daily changing pita bread topped with a selection of “today’s larder”. For us, this was a za’atar spiced pita, topped with maple roasted butternut squash, roasted feta, topped with rocket, almond dukka and barberries.
They serve you proper pitas here. Not the flat, oval, cardboard-esque ones that you get in supermarkets, but lovely big, soft, puffy, round ones that stand up to a great bit of chargrilling.
We were both really looking forward to the smoked aubergine dip with this pita dish, but it was the tahini one that actually blew us away, thanks to that added garlic-herb punch coming from the spoonful of pesto.
We added the tempura okra to our order as an afterthought, and after eating, probably wouldn’t bother with them again. I ended up dipping mine in that wonderful tahini dip (above), mainly because okra doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour in the first place, but the spicy tempura didn’t really deliver either.
The squid marinated in za’atar with crushed tomatoes, crispy cavolo nero and caper berries sounded like the best fish dish on the menu. It was certainly cooked perfectly and the roasted tomatoes were a fantastic accompaniment to the squid. I’m still not convinced about the whole deep frying leaves thing though. Next time, I would love to try the Seafood Chrayme – a type of stew with chickpeas and kalamata olives (in my opinion, THE best type of olives).
A case of eenie-meanie saw the charcoaled leeks with manouri (a cheese similar to feta) and dried apricots win over the charred cauliflower dish with pomegranate molasses. A classic combination of flavours, this was absolutely lovely, the only downside being that this cooled down quickly when brought out with all the other dishes.
Hands down my favourite dish of the night were these Angus beef and venison koftas. Moist as you like, spiced and sat on enough hummus to shake a pita bread at, these were just divine. A lovely drizzle of harissa oil gave a bit of a spicy kick to this winning dish.
We finished the meal sharing the very traditional Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean dessert of halva. Made from tahini (sesame paste), the parfait was on the savoury side of the dessert spectrum, sweetened by the drizzle of date syrup sauce. Nice to end the meal on more of a savoury note rather than a sweet and sickly one.
After all of the fantastic things I’d read and all the stunning pictures I’d seen of the food being produced at Strut and Cluck, I was certainly not disappointed by our trip to Delamina. In life though, people often say that you can’t beat the original so I guess I will just have to strut my stuff over to Shoreditch one day soon, just to see if there’s any truth in the saying. Oh the hardship of it all.