The Palomar was only established in the heart of London a year ago but has already become the hottest spot in town. The trendy Soho restaurant was launched by the Jerusalem Machneyuda group (chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon) in June 2014 and in the space of 12 months has captured the hearts of many Brits.
Last December, The Palomar (which means “dove” in Spanish) was described as “the hottest restaurant of 2014” by Londonist, the online cultural magazine. It was also ranked among the five best restaurants in the capital by Time Out London, and even received an honorable mention and recommendation in foodies’ bible “The Michelin Guide.”
But now The Palomar has scaled another summit and stands atop the culinary scene after winning the Best restaurant in Britain category at last week’s prestigious Veuve Clicquot GQ Food and Drink Awards. Other categories in the competition included best bar, best pub, best chef, best hotel and best sommelier.
Executive chef and partner Granit was breathless with excitement as he tried to describe the win – maybe because he still hasn’t entirely taken it in, or perhaps because we caught him in the middle of filming for the second season of Israeli television show “Game of Chefs,” in which he serves as a judge.
“Three weeks ago they informed us that we had to attend the ceremony, which took place last Monday,” Granit recalls. “We didn’t know at the time what it was about. We were surprised, we were nervous. Some of us didn’t sleep a wink. It was only 48 hours before the ceremony itself that we were we informed we had won.”
Award-winning Middle Eastern cuisine from The Palomar, London. Photo by Helen Cathcart
All the details soon became clear. The Palomar had been chosen to participate in the inaugural GQ Food & Drink Awards, which were held at London’s Bulgari Hotel, and was one of 10 initial candidates. Other nominees included veteran and well-known restaurants. Some were headed by celebrity chefs, others boasted several Michelin stars. These included The Ledbury in Notting Hill, offering trendy French cuisine and two Michelin stars. Another two-star Michelin restaurant was L’Enclume, the Lake District eatery of chef Simon Rogan, who is among the most respected contemporary chefs in Britain.
The panel of judges, composed mainly of restaurant owners, chose a shortlist of the six best, from which the public was then invited to help choose the best restaurant. A thrilled Granit says “the percentage of voters who chose The Palomar was amazingly high, but what is also amazing and surprising is that the choice of the judging panel was unanimous and unequivocal.”
He adds that “among the nicer things said about The Palomar at the competition was that all the participating restaurants had excellent food, but only at The Palomar did the service and ambiance also go the ‘extra mile.’”
The restaurant’s head chef is Tomer Amedi, while cofounder Yossi Elad moved to London while the restaurant was in the construction phase. Granit, meanwhile, comes over from Israel every three weeks. He recounts the times when he has completed a long shift in the Jerusalem restaurant Machneyuda, boarded the five-hour flight to London, and then immediately began another shift at The Palomar.
The group will soon be heading east – well, to East London, where The Palomar will be getting a little brother that serves identical cuisine, albeit in a bar setting without the seating of a standard restaurant. Now all that’s left is to guess the name of the new British arrival.