In his younger years, nothing made David S Levin happier than standing in the kitchen, helping to stir the Hungarian-Jewish delicacies his mother and grandmother had diligently prepared and imagining one day running his very own restaurant.
Like many of those mouth-watering meals, his dream has deliciously simmered over the years and finally comes to realisation with the opening of Tish this weekend.
Described as a contemporary restaurant and bar, Tish is the first kosher restaurant to open in Belsize Park and offers an all-day, dairy-free menu of European cuisine, including traditional Jewish fayre, as well as a clear nod to Levin’s Hungarian roots.
Breakfast options range from challah French toast with pear compote and maple syrup or fresh fruits (£6.50) to London-cure smoked salmon on seeded rye (£7.50) or, for hungrier customers, the Tish Breakfast, featuring ox tongue and onion hash, chestnut mushrooms, roasted plum tomato, choice of eggs and toast (£9.50).
Lunch and dinner starters include Tish Hungarian bean soup (£7), chicken soup with kneidlach (£7) and tuna tartare (£8.50), while mains include dry-aged rib eye steak (£29), crispy duck leg (£19), pan roasted mushroom strudel (£14.50), braised salt beef brisket (£21) and slow roast shoulder of lamb (£24).
Catering for up to 160 customers, Tish is open from 7am to 12.30am and, unusually, offers a fixed price Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch, bookable in advance.
Levin is already anticipating “tremendous demand” for this service, which is readily available in New York, Rome and Tel Aviv, but not so widely offered
He explains: “Up until now, tourists and business travellers didn’t have a proper option for Shabbat. They either have to find themselves a meal in someone’s home or eat takeaway in their hotel room, neither of which are always ideal or practical.”
Likewise, he expects there will be take-up from families wanting a break from preparing a large meal for Shabbat, busy professionals or organisations wanting to host a meal, adding that he’s already received “numerous group bookings” for family celebrations and synagogue events.
The South Hampstead Synagogue member tells me: “I have been thinking about opening Tish for many years, partly as a tribute to my mother, Veronica, and grandmother, Anny Klein, and partly because I think London deserves a fantastic kosher destination that rivals other top restaurants.
“The concept started as a small seed, which over the years grew in complexity and proportions. It has been a long journey that has been both exciting and challenging. I am fortunate to have worked with many talented individuals who helped make my dream a reality.”
Of the obstacles he has faced along the way, Levin admits that “every aspect was
a challenge”, adding that “opening a restaurant is a complicated business”, but is pleased to see everything finally coming together for the big launch on Sunday.
That includes everything from the interior, boasting a 15-foot ceiling, mint green wood panelled walls, four grand brass chandeliers and cream and green checkerboard terrazzo flooring, as well as the menu, on which Levin collaborated with head chef John Ellison.
Ellison was previously head chef at Bob Bob Ricard, Soho, and at The Club at The Ivy, Covent Garden.
Levin says: “We interviewed many chefs and John was by far the favourite. He was very intrigued about kashrut and did quite a lot of research before we met him, which we found very impressive.
“In addition, he is very personable, warm and funny. He was delighted at the prospect of working in an open kitchen, which some chefs find intimidating, as he enjoys interacting with diners and front of house – and, of course, he’s
a fantastic chef!”
From the extensive menu, Levin has already picked out the Challah French toast and Tish Hungarian bean soup, made from a traditional heritage recipe, as his favourite starters, alongside the Tish meatballs, based on his mother’s original recipe and slow roasted lamb for mains. For dessert, he hotly recommends Bramley apple strudel with apple sorbet.
In Yiddish, the word tish means table and there’s no doubting Levin has literally brought much to the contemporary kosher table with his new restaurant.
It also has another connotation in the Chassidic sense, with a tish meaning a ‘joyous meal’, something Levin no doubts hopes all his customers will experience.
He adds: “In recent years, there have been no luxurious kosher restaurants suitable for a special occasion or a business meeting.
“I want people to be excited about their dining experience and enjoy unrushed, casual luxury with family, colleagues and friends.”
Tish, 196 Haverstock Hill, London NW3. Details: 020 7431 3828, tish.london or firstname.lastname@example.org