‘Zest’ is the restaurant/café/bar at the relatively new Jewish Cultural Centre JW3 on London’s Finchley Road. And it is a winner. This is what gourmet kosher cuisine should be like. Genuine quality and skill at the service of gastronomic creativity.
The Israeli chef Eran Tibi worked with Yotam Ottolenghi and it shows. The menu is meat-free and the dishes are a kaleidoscopic choreography of vegetables, fish and spices in true modern Israeli cuisine style. These are carefully calculated recipes where all kinds of surprising spices combine to bring out the flavours and freshness of the raw ingredients. And they’re also beautifully presented in stunning crockery specifically produced for Zest by Adama Pottery in Kibbutz Netiv Ha-Lamed Hei in the Valley of Elah in Israel.
Zest is a long room divided in three sections: the café where you can have cold mezze dishes, salads, soups and cakes (just looking at the salad bar will make your mouth water), a stylish bar (designed Cantilever Bars) and the sit-down restaurant for the full menu experience. The room is pleasant and relaxed. Designed but not pretentious.
It is hard to make choices from the menu because everything is so enticing. So we just went for a couple of Mezzes to start with, some fish for mains and one of the desserts. Everything was refined, perfumed and, yes, zesty fresh. Rather than try to describe each dish, here are just some of the ingredients that should ‘set the scene’ in your mind: lime aioli, saffron and orange glaze, pickled girolles salsa, crispy sage, caramelised pear, flame charred cheddar polenta, dukkah and sumac spices and we even had some dried rose petals. The key word is ‘inventiveness’. You will want to return again and again to taste the whole menu.
London kosher restaurants can be off-putting with their lack of knowhow, drab and expensive food, their lack of imagination and mis-interpretations of ethnic gastronomy, but Zest restores our faith of what is possible. Kosher restaurants should be aiming at the same high standards and creativity as Zest. Please?…
ZEST @ JW3
341-351 Finchley Road,
London, NW3 6ET
*Last seating at 2pm
**Changes in accordance with Shabbat times