IIt was easy to miss the opening of Miznon in Soho even for the ardent following of restaurants, because it’s an international chain run by celebrated Israeli chef Eyal Shani that serves up stuffed bread and sides like whole roasted cauliflower and lima bean soup. Even if Miznon caught your eye, you might think twice about it afterwards, because the list — in green and red ink and sans comic font — is so confusing, and worse, it dares you to feature jokes. Daring! There is no place on a modern British menu for anything resembling humor or personality. Oh no sir. Here at Blighty, expect a nicely presented menu of options with a short history and snooze at most for the owner, giving nothing away from a 24/7 sentimental bear pit with “hospitality” breadbaskets.
Miznon then broke out onto Broadwick Street after successful runs in Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, Singapore, Melbourne and New York. It’s bustling, staffed by what appears to be a staff of thousands, housed in a charmingly not-so-cute room and serves high-quality, Tel Aviv-influenced street food. The list feels like sleep deprivation, as inside jokes and Benny Hill’s monologue are inserted into free subtitles and changed several times from Hebrew to French to English.
Let’s enjoy a Miznon on the topic of pitta: “All of our pitta get their birthmarks, they are different from the other (it’s about entertaining, not collecting), each one of them creates a precise address, and it’s always you. Only the divine pleasure that comes out of them is the same.” I have in this flatbread? Thick and juicy lamb kebabs? Crystal shrimp in sour cream and “tomato ovaries”? How about falafel with Guinness ‘black blood’, ‘inner parts’ of roasted cauliflower or the standard zero moment that is ‘cottage pie’.
The trick here is to keep your cool, avoid all the British fears of silliness and let the chaos surround you, because the food is so damn good. It’s a repeat customer, “How do they do this?” – good level. Pita bread, cough, “deep satisfaction” is stuffed with rich, long-cooked beef mixed with melted cheddar cheese and served with crunchy pickled cucumbers and pickled green peppers. This beta does exactly what it promises, more or less, on the menu. Do order this to share, though. It’s a meaty, cheesy, dripping shirt monster. This is the food he should keep away from himself.
Meanwhile, the “fatty” Maison potatoes haunted my dreams for weeks. The potatoes are baked until their skins reach a peak of oily-salty crispness, then stacked with obscene amounts of butter and cream, before being sandwiched between two sheets of greaseproof paper, then mashed flat, leaving a gooey, creamy carpet of thin, torn mash. The jacket you open next. Actual carb heaven.
At this point in my Maisonnoun trip, it dawned on me that this isn’t a forgotten, shabby chic take on “street food,” but instead something designed for grandeur. SHANI’s delicious on-the-go dining is full of goodness, heat, salt, cream, and grease. A wonderful puddle of silky, creamy hummus topped with soft chickpeas and tomatoes, and comes with spongy bread for wiping. If you like, you can have lamb as an extra topping. A whole head of cauliflower, charred at the edges and stuffed with melted butter, is no longer one of my five heads of the day, because that decadence robs it of any health value—but, hey.
Miznon is a place where you should treat your first visit as a run-in. Accept help from the servers, and let them bear the burden of the request. It’s cheerful, upbeat, and sympathetic when you see “a whole roasted broccoli tree dripping on your shoe” and obscure sides like “golden meat” on the menu.
Having fully absorbed the essence of Miznon, I’ll be back to try the spaghetti bolognese pita, perhaps with a side of grilled beetroot carpaccio and horseradish. Or perhaps the “intimate” pita, which is a Tel Aviv spin on beef stew with root vegetables. The ‘English Breakfast All Day’ pita with minced meat, beans and spicy tomato sauce will drive full English diners half-crap, but nothing in the Maison is quite serious or giving away about grammar; All they care about is that you stumble out the door fully with your top pants button loose.
The pudding was a huge portion of a very wobbly dessert Malabi – A kind of middle eastern panna cotta – drowned in rosehip syrup. The only other sweet option is “sugar-cooked banana slices with dolce.” [sic] de leche, whipping cream and broken butter cookies.” Brought the Dent clan here over Christmas, when I got tired of recycling turkey. As restaurant recommendations go, this is really good.
weigh 8 Broadwick Street, London W1 (no telephone). Open all week, noon to 11pm (10pm Sunday). From about £20 per person, plus drinks and service.