Delicatessen might sound like somewhere where you grab a sandwich for lunch but this funky new spot in Hamsptead, north London, is anything but.
Family-run and friendly, Delicatessen boasts bold and colourful plates that are perfect for sharing – emblematic of the Middle Eastern way of dining.
We were greeted with a house special Havana Club Mojito which was fresh, minty and not too sweet. Isn’t it glorious to have a perfectly mixed cocktail while you decide what to gorge on?
The décor is shabby chic and the place filled up fast, even for a Monday night. Before long there were tables of laughing and shouting families and smaller groups of older men enjoying wine and kosher treats. The craziness and heat added to the family party vibe and it was great to sit back and people watch. After all, Hampstead is the home of the moneyed eccentric.
Please, go there hungry. The manager suggested five sharing plates between two, but there was enough food for many more. Not that we’re complaining – there’s nothing more depressing than a mean chef. Kitchens with homely, generous portions want to you enjoy their food, go home full and tell your friends.
As with typical tapas all the dishes arrive when they are ready so there was that slightly thrilling element of “ooh what’s next?” And while the dishes were certainly big, they didn’t lack in flavour or skill. We ordered a mishmash of everything – and if you’re a fan of nuts, spice and pomegranate you will adore Delicatessen’s offerings.
Our vegetable selection was golden cauliflower in tahini and smoked chilli. It was a meal in itself, served al dente with just enough kick. We wanted to try their take on hummus and it didn’t disappoint: a smooth swirl of tahini goodness sprinkled with confit lamb and crackling. It was rich – none of the dishes we chose were particularly healthy, but that’s part of the fun. Then we went on to the pulled salt beef schnitzel, a deep fried golden ball of yum.
Getting quite full now but we are nothing if not determined. For a taste of the sea we chose sashimi grade Bluefin tuna, fennel, avocado and anchovy bruschetta. The fish was fresh and meaty and the vegetables added a bit of adventure. The jewel in the crown though was the Shakshukit with Moroccan Merguez sausage.
As Delicatessen is a kosher restaurant, merguez is sausage made from spiced lamb, not pork. Juicy slices of it were served in a sizzling tagine of tomato sauce, pillowy tahini chunks, garlic and yoghurt – the ultimate mopping dish. Yes, we ate a whole lot of tahini that night.
All of it was washed down with house red wine served the best way – in oversized balloon glasses that trap flavours and the bouquet and keep it at room temperature. There was no rush so we took many pauses and finally admitted defeat about three hours after we arrived.
To combat the drowsiness after eating so much good food the manager recommended some refreshing mint tea – and insisted we try some dessert. It took all of about 15 seconds to convince us.
Middle Eastern puddings are generally quite sweet – heavy on the honey – so you need quite a sweet tooth. We were served hawaij cigars, dark chocolate halva tart and you guessed it, tahini ice cream. The other offering was malabi (sort of like milk pudding) with passion fruit, rose petals, coconut and saffron syrup. Both were delightful.
This place is perfect for big groups on the rowdier side and somewhere for supper if you are really hungry. Buzzy, bright and bold, Delicatessen is certainly worth a trip to leafy Hampstead. My guest was a chef so harder to please than your average plus one, plus half Israeli – but in her words the food, venue and experience was actually rather “geshmak!”
46 Rosslyn Hill