Occupying a large area on the lower ground floor of JW3, Zest is a light, airy restaurant serving kosher dairy food with a Mediterranean twist. It was our anniversary outing and a cocktail was in order. I went for a Churchill (Jameson, sweet Vermouth, Cointreau and lemon juice) as it seemed to contain the most alcohol.
While waiting for this intoxicating concoction, we nibbled on olives and pickles, along with bread from a mixed artisan basket. Among the challah and the sourdough was the tastiest pitta bread I have ever eaten. It was toasted ‘al ha esh’ (on the fire) – as the Israelis say – and had a gorgeous salty barbeque taste to it. I have to be honest, though – when I tasted it, I really craved putting a sausage inside.
For starters, my husband plumped for cured salmon, but I was intrigued by the offer of miso-glazed sea bass, baby fennel, wasabi, radish and micro shiso, so decided to give it a whirl. When it arrived, I got a bit of everything on my fork like they do in the cookery programmes and tasted it in one fell swoop. It was delicious, the micro shiso giving it that extra-special something.
Our mains were fabulous, too. We both chose the yellowfin tuna steak, sesame, sushi rice, avocado and soy purée, lotus mizuna and wasabi citrus dressing (all one dish).
Tony also ordered chips, which I didn’t think was necessary as we had eaten the equivalent of a large loaf of bread between us, plus the tuna came with rice. I ate most of them.
I got a little upset when I saw that my new favourite food in the world, malabi (Israeli rose-scented milk pudding), was no longer on the menu.
I consoled myself with cheesecake and a few mouthfuls of Tony’s lemon tart and rallied. Zestastic!
by Angie Jacobs
New Place in Town
When entrepreneur Frank Crocker heard that the new terminus of the Great Central railway was to be cited in St John’s Wood in the mid-1890s, he built the ornate and sumptuous Crown Hotel, to capitalise on the increased traffic to the area.
However, local residents campaigned against the terminus and won, rendering the hotel the grandest folly in London. It became a pub and changed its name to Crocker’s Folly in 1978.
A few years ago, it was bought by the Maroush Group, which has restored it to its former glory and opened it as a stunning restaurant.
This is one of those places that feels special enough to be in the West End, but is in a local residential area where it’s easy to park.
There are four dining areas – the fabulously buzzy 1898 Bar with a terrific cocktail menu, the warm and inviting Marble Room, the magnificent Lord’s Room with its ornate high ceiling and spectacular chandelier, and an outside terrace.
Crocker’s Folly is so much more than a pub, but there is still the odd nod to pub-style dishes on the menu – steaks, lamb cannon, hearty chips – but more delicate options, too, including marinated tuna, burrata with roasted vegetables, pan-fried sea bass with deep-fried aubergine, butternut squash risotto and other fish and vegetarian options. We enjoyed a beautiful creamy panna cotta and a chocolate fondant for dessert.
The food is beautifully and imaginatively presented with gracious service and lunch or dinner is a real treat. They also serve afternoon tea. There are good value lunch and children’s menus and the festive menus have just been released.
24 Aberdeen Place,
London NW8 8JR
T: 020 7289 9898
ON THE SIDE
Purely in the interest of you, dear reader, I have tasted many honey cakes over the past week and can solemnly declare the best offering to be found at Yummies, in Mill Hill and Radlett. Choose between regular honey cake, honey and apple cake and the large honey deluxe.
‘Hidden gem’ is a cliché, but Incontro in Finsbury Park is just that. Open for just over six months, this warm and inviting little place serves wonderful Italian food at reasonable prices and the menu includes many fish dishes. There is also a great selection of Italian regional wines.
MILL HILL MAGIC
Whetstone hotspot Hudsons is to open in Mill Hill before the end of the year, on the site formerly occupied by the Day of the Raj. Hudsons owner Martin Ment is excited to share his popular concept with the residents of Mill Hill and hopes it will contribute to the regeneration of the Broadway.
Ben Tish, co-founder and chef director of Salt Yard restaurants, is opening a new restaurant in St James’ Market in October. Veneta is a Venice-inspired grand café in the mould of the iconic Caffè Florian in St Mark’s Square. St James’ Market is set to be one of the most exciting developments in London restaurants this year. Just south of Piccadilly Circus, between Lower Regent Street and Haymarket, it has a large pedestrianised area.