The Golds shared at Melissa
How often do you wish you’d ordered someone else’s meal? That sizzling, tasty dish on the opposite side of the table that looks so much better than your own? To avoid having to a) ask for a bite or b) a straight swap, why not choose a place where sharing is always on the menu – and I don’t mean your parents’ house.
I’m talking about a place such as Melissa, in Edgware, where owner Cetin Kgygusuz is at his happiest when a table of 20 is tucking into his food. The more the merrier is a mantra in many Turkish homes and it extends to the restaurants that have no issue catering for large sharing groups. Cetin is typical of his countrymen, serving generous sharing portions of familiar but delicious appetisers such as cacik, tarama and hummus with billowing pitta.
At Melissa, having a vegetarian in your party isn’t a problem either because the meze can be enjoyed by everyone and there are enough meat-free mains like Patlican Salata (grilled aubergines and peppers with yogurt and butter); falafel and vegetarian kebabs to share.
Meat-sharing is a must, notably Cetin’s lamb, which has the most memorable marinade, the ingredients of which is the only thing Cetin isn’t willing to share in the restaurant that is named after his daughter, Melissa.
On Facebook, Cetin endlessly shares photos of family and friends enjoying his food and he is just as hospitable when it comes to diners, many of whom have favourite dishes he has committed to memory.
When he isn’t at Melissa, Cetin is catering for parties at which he sets up huge charcoal grills and serves up kebabs no one wants to share. His Jewish clients wouldn’t think of hosting a party without him and many have known him since he arrived from Istanbul and worked in Sami’s in Golders Green. “I like to see everyone eating together,” says Cetin, who will randomly sit down at a table and share his own meal. What a host!
- melissarestaurant.co.uk t: 020 8951 5252
The Sanfords shared at Panorama
There are many ways to say ‘share’ in Greek, but they are all acceptable at the Panorama, a relatively new family owned restaurant, located in Whetstone at the site of what was previously a tired and rundown Indian restaurant. The new owners have completely refurbished the premises and turned Panorama into a clean and modern dining establishment offering table service and takeaway, and our welcome on arrival from the owner Maria was genuinely warm and inviting. Once seated, the sharing began immediately with pitta bread and olives. We then ordered the house fish mezze, which enabled us to sample almost everything from the extensive menu.
A vast selection of cold starters swiftly arrived, (the freshly home-made taramasalata and tzatziki were mouthwatering)and then an array of hot dishes before the fish course with salads and the house speciality – Cyprus chips.
On and on went the serving to a point where we had to be selective because we were so full. The sheer quantity would be a challenge for even the heartiest eater, but while Panorama has stayed faithful to the archetypal Greek restaurant, serving best known favourites with the freshest ingredients, the quality of the food is exceptional.
It’s rare to say you’ve had an unrivalled eating experience in a local Greek restaurant, but that was the case. The warm welcome, great service and food that we could have shared with our entire family, such was the quantity may well have turned Panorama into our favourite restaurant.
- panoramarestaurant.co.uk t: 020 8446 6444
The Jacobs shared at Izagara
Izagara. The word may sound like a mystical place in Tales of the Arabian Nights, but it actually means grilled, grate or broiler in Turkish. The true definition is no reflection of the stylishly refurbished Turkish restaurant in Edgware, where the whole family gets to share.
We’re talking children, friends, everyone huddled at a big round table tucking into a mountain of perfectly-presented food.
The waiters know a challenge when they see one and, rather than mess about with individual orders, suggested the sharing platter.
Good idea and one that took shape fast enough to stop the kids from whingeing and, although they don’t like sharing their toys, they will dip together and, armed with pitta bread, got stuck into the hot and cold starters.
Along came another tray filled with halloumi cheese for the vegetarians, and falafel and spicy sausage for the meat eaters. Be warned though as an enormous plate of meat will follow, and it includes lamb chops, chicken wings, lamb and chicken shish, chicken breast and kofte. A mountainous serving of fresh salad kept the healthy eaters happy, but then so did the amazing fries.
The sharing aspect was a novelty for the four children (aged three to six), and they loved the lamb chops in a way they fail to appreciate chicken nuggets at home – it was a pleasure to watch! In Turkey, children eat late with their parents, which is not something we’d do, but they were made to feel so welcome at Izagara, we may even send them on their own one day. Until then, we’re happy to share.
t: 020 8951 4460
Even kosher restaurants are jumping on the ‘it’s good to share’ wagon, says Louisa Walters
Delicatessen in Hampstead is sandwiched between two other restaurants and is easily the finest of the three. An ode to the casual eateries of Tel Aviv, it offers Middle Eastern food that is bold, colourful, inventive and interesting, with daring flavour and texture combinations that never fail to excite. I love the rough plaster walls, the rustic tables, the pretty Moroccan glasses and the eclectic mix of metal, copper and china plates and bowls.
It’s a sharing concept, and as much as I didn’t want to give any of mine away,
I couldn’t resist trying those of my dining partners. Portions are large, so it would seem very greedy to refuse to share!
Lambshuka leaps out of the menu for obvious reasons – and is so good it almost leaps off the plate too. Meltingly tender pulled lamb and herbs on a bed of tahini is
a great way to start a meal.
We also shared the tanned aubergine with tahini, fig and mixed nuts, a golden cauliflower with smoked chilli (and more tahini!) and a lovely light sea bream carpaccio with tomato seeds, green chilli and black truffles – what a great dish. A Yemenite kubaneh (that’s bread to you and me) was just the thing for mopping all that tahini and all those flavours.
The signature dish is a seared duck breast with celeriac purée and carrots – it’s stunning. It’s the sort of dish you would expect in a seriously top restaurant in the West End.
My vegan friend went for a wheat broth with burnt vegetables and harissa, which was essentially a huge platter of glorious crunchy market vegetables all roasted to perfection. We also loved the spring chicken with sumac, za’atar and rose petals. We didn’t have the bone marrow and rib eye burger with mustard mayo pulled chips, but the guy at the next table did and he was salivating! Moroccan cigars filled with nuts and spices were just the sweet finish we needed with mint tea.
delicatessen.company t: 020 7700 5511
Zest at JW3 has had a sexy refurb and is now offering a meaty menu, meaning it is totally a destination restaurant, rather than just a place you pop into when you’re at JW3. Low hanging lights and an enormous fig tree make it warmer and more intimate than before, while retaining the airy, spacious feel. Smart casual, sophisticated yet informal – a perfect combination.
A note on the menu advises that plates come out when they are ready and are designed to share, so you need to dispense with the ‘starter/main’ concept – get ordering and enjoy!
This menu also featured the little loaf known as kubaneh, and it came with lamb fat to dip it in. You know how you dip your challah in your chicken soup on a Friday night…. it’s kind of like that but better!
We enjoyed lovely fresh purple asparagus with a cured egg yolk and orange – a really pretty summery plate. Chicken with date molasses and almond was our favourite dish, and we also loved the lamb koftas with peanut salsa. Ras el hanout-marinated salt beef is a great take on a traditional item and comes with a superb potato salad. Serious carnivores have to try the deep-fried steak with cinnamon and tomato salsa, although purists might prefer a simple rib eye steak for two.
Watermelon and peach sorbet with summer fruits is the perfect light dessert after a meaty meal, but we couldn’t resist the challah bread pudding too. Zest has a compact but carefully-chosen wine list. We shared a bottle of Israeli Tishbi (Cabernet Sauvignon) to complement our meaty meal (also available as a Sauvignon Blanc by the glass).
t: 020 7433 8955
- Zest has also opened a meaty restaurant at Bevis Marks, open Monday – Thursday, lunchtime only.