BaskourAnd the 221 Kensington High Street, London W8 6SG (020 7937 3003, pascor.co.uk). All dishes £5.30 – £18, desserts £5.80 – £9.30, wines £23 a bottle
Some dishes are as distinctive as the cook’s fingerprints. At Baskour on London’s Kensington High Street, this dish is a tiny loaf of slaw, topped with a chewy, chewy topping, golden-glazed and sprinkled with sesame. Serve warm from the oven, alongside a plate of smoked tahini the color of iron filings, and a scoop of whipped thyme butter. When you tear it open, you’re greeted with indescribably light white crumbs, blowing sweet, steamy gusts of joy baked onto you.
The shape of this loaf may be different, but the Yemeni-style bread is exactly the same as the one first served to me at Palomar on Robert Soho Street in 2014. There, the chef, a plump, bearded Israeli gentleman named Tomer Amedei, was making it out of the tin that he He’s still hot in front of you and then screams at you to get hung up on. I always did what Amedee told me to do, including, on occasion, a few sweat shots. The Palomar under Amedi was a boisterous party in a restaurant, especially if you were seated at the counter, where the dishes—Jerusalem mixture of chicken livers, hearts and thighs, or harissa with salted lemon and parsley or tagines, many and varied—were not so much served to you as enthusiastically thrown into your general direction.
After making his mark at Palomar, brother to the famous Jerusalem-based Lamashniuda, Amidi returned to Israel. Now back here. sort of. He has been described as the executive chef at Bascourt, a neighborhood restaurant in the kind of neighborhood where BMW ownership is merely a sign of failure. Which is what makes Baskour so amazing. It is reasonably priced, not only for this silky part of Kensington High Street, but for both London in general and for this quality of cooking in particular. Many of the small plates are priced in the single digits and the rest are in the low or mid teens. The wine list opens at £23 a bottle. After eating there, I emailed Amedee if she would stay like this. I’ve fallen into the trap of artificially low prices when opening menus before. He agreed that they might go up a little bit; Everything is getting more expensive for restaurants, just like at home. But pricing is part of the philosophy. He said, “I want people to be able to come two to three times a month, instead of just coming for special events.” Let’s take his word for it.
It really does feel like a live joint. The downstairs space is a narrow, high-ceilinged room with a large open kitchen, built around a grill and charcoal oven. Only two chefs work tonight, taught by Amedee, who is here for a few weeks at a time every two months. Just like at Palomar, the kitchen, helmed by head chef Marilan Silva Passos, whips up Middle Eastern dishes full of grit and grit. Amazing is the perfect balance between salt and acidity. The salad is described as “inverted” tabbouleh, because there’s a lot more leafiness—lots of flat-leaf parsley, dill and baby spinach—than the grain, in this case, puffed freekeh, made from roasted and polished durum wheat. It comes in a refreshing buttermilk dressing and is the eating equivalent of a hopping mouthful.
While there are meat options—charred lamb chops for example, or the exotic-sounding “Egypt meets Vietnam” duck salad in a ginger-pomegranate dressing with subtlety—it’s the garden section of the menu, led by this salad, which drags me our whole eggplant, Roasted until it crumbles and smells like a deep bonfire, or maybe a ride around the back of school bike sheds in the good old days. It comes with pickled tomatoes, pine nuts, and more of a smoky, steel-gray tahini sauce.
Then there are what they call their “ultra crunchy” fries. I really wouldn’t argue with what might otherwise seem outrageously overblown. The new potatoes were boiled, then crushed into a geological mess of rock and cracks, before being deep fried. You may have pulled them out of the fat a little earlier. This kitchen has left them, until they turn the most attractive golden brown. They come dusted with Yemeni spices, gratings of hard cheese, and sprinkled with salty lemon. They lie on an earthy-colored aioli, with a smoky tomato flavor. It’s a serious load of trick potato business for £8.20.
From the seafood section, comes the fat-crusted prawns in a cast-iron skillet filled with tomato, harissa, and salty lemon sauce that, like the chef who created them, simply begs you to have a good time. After setting it on the counter, an intensely hot stone is added theatrically until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to flake down the sides. We eat the prawns, sucking on the heads and scraping the pan. If this dish is deep and hearty, the trout fillets, with greens and cilantro baked in almond butter, are lightness and freshness in their own right.
I take mild qualms about describing salted mackerel in another dish as “local”; The closest body of water to here is the serpentine at Hyde Park or the River Thames as it bends at Putney. I don’t think any of those will deliver. However, no matter where it came from, the treat gave it a chunky texture, set off by roasted beetroot and a sprinkling of fresh red pepper. It is a savory dish full of labneh.
Dessert presentation is short and designed for easy serving. We’ve got a greasy scoop of chocolate and tahini mousse on cookie crumbs, topped with a little raspberry sauce, and a coconut-almond glazed financier, which looks terribly elegant but has the comfortingly familiar crunch and chewiness of old-school macaroons. The only glitch, actually in the entire meal, is the awesomeness of the unsweetened ricotta on the side. It takes more than just a drop of honey to get her moving. Otherwise, love spills over here, via a crisp bottle of white wine from Portugal and fresh mint tea served at the end in delicate porcelain of the kind grandma might have kept for the best. Pascure is the Latin word to eat or devour, or so the internet tells me, because I never studied the classics. It certainly describes what we did. Tomer, it’s great to have your food back in London.
Everything changed at Le Manoir by Raymond Blanc. Gary Jones, who recently stepped down as executive chef after more than two decades in the role, is set to be replaced in January by Luke Selby, who is currently at Evelyn’s Table in London’s Soho. He will be joined at Le Manoir by his brothers Nathaniel and Theodore, who have been cooking alongside him at Evelyn’s Table since launching in the cellar pub Blue Posts in 2020. Luke began his career as head chef at Le Manoir in 2009, and has also worked at Hide and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
Chef Dave Mothersill, who has worked in some of Brighton’s most popular restaurants including Salt Room, Gingerman and Terre a Terre, will open his first solo venture in the city. Furna, on New Road, will only have thirteen seats and will offer a decidedly upscale tasting menu at £90 a head. Dishes will include mushrooms with black garlic, chestnuts and Wiltshire truffles, sweet veal bread with iceberg lettuce, maple and roast chicken sauce and meringue with clementines.
Rockfish, the Southwest-based group of seafood restaurants, will offer free servings of fish and chips to children under 11, when an accompanying adult orders a main course, between now and March 2023. “Our goal is simple,” founder and CEO Mitch said. Tonks. “To bring families together this winter to enjoy amazing, sustainable local seafood right on our doorstep. We hope our initiative inspires others in the industry to take a similar approach.”