The Levant countries that form a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia includes nations such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, along with the countries located on the East Med’s shores, like Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. This part of the world adores its food, its steeped into their culture. Families bond over meal times, people socialise daily with feasts. CERU in South Kensington has captured that very essence in an attempt to satisfy Londoners’ wanderlust and briefly transport diners to warmer destinations through its authentic menu and atmosphere.
The place was fully booked when I visited recently, creating an atmospheric buzz. A long time coming since CERU – like everywhere else – had been forced to shut its doors for so long; they were finally able to reopen in May. CERU launched in 2014 and had been previously described as ‘a must-do experience’ (Metro) and ‘screaming freshness, originality and sensuality’ (The Guardian). Now they’re finally able to welcome back their loyal customers and introduce Levantine flavours to a new audience.
To get the appetite going, it’s advisable to begin with dips served with Greek bread. The houmous has a great little kick from the green chilli in it, while the CERU hamara is a red pepper dip that has a wonderful tanginess. There’s also the fadi, which is roasted zucchini with tasty flavours of garlic and tahini.
The all day menu features small plates, which is a traditional mezze style in the Levant; it’s recommend that each diner orders 2-3 plates. The peach, feta and red onion salad is very nice and fresh. With corn salad, red chilli and crushed pistachio, it’s certainly got depth in both texture and flavour. The karides is a must from the seafood options. Deliciously sauteed king prawns are bedded in an authentic tomato, fenugreek and dill sauce.
The lamb shoulder is divine, as it’s been slow roasted for five hours in a secret blend of 12 shawarma spices. This is nicely topped with a pomegranate sauce and finished off with fresh mint and pistachio. The beef fillet is also expertly cooked. Grilled medium rare, its flavours are complimented brilliantly with the zhug dressing and crushed hazelnuts.
The shish taouk is probably the most popular dish and with good reason. The paprika and lemon marinated cubes of chicken breast, with a herb yoghurt, are cooked on skewers, giving them an amazing grilled flavour. Definitely one to order.
Keep some room for that sweet tooth, because you’ll want to try the flavours of baklava ice cream. It’s cardamom ice cream with a nut brittle and burnt honey caramel. Awesome flavour combos that cleanse the palette.
CERU South Kensington also offers an extensive selection of wines, which are curated by Founder and CEO, Barry Hilton, who previously spent a lot of time travelling to seek out the best wines from all over the world. One of the latest additions to the wine list is Petit Castel, Domain du Castel (£70) from Israel. This exceptional Bordeaux blend is from Jerusalem, courtesy of grapes from Rothschild’s French vineyards.
The menu contains nearly 100 ingredients with over 20 spices and is healthy yet indulgent. CERU’s menu is almost entirely gluten-free and made for sharing. As the restaurant’s motto implies, CERU was born from a love of food, drink and sunshine. The Levantine countries would be proud.
For more information visit www.cerurestaurants.com