My friends Kate and John told me they’d found this great restaurant-cafe in Walton Street recently, serving up wonderful Middle Eastern-Mediterranean food and they thought I’d like it and offered to take me there one Saturday for lunch. It’s an easy journey from Richmond on the District Line to South Kensington and today was a nice sunny day to take a trip into central London.
Walton Street is quite a narrow street running from the back of Harrods in Knightsbridge through to Michelin House in Fulham Road. It’s definitely a posh area with bijou little shops selling things so expensive that, as I said to Kate, it’s beyond any kind of temptation so just nice to look. It’s a pretty little area and we wandered round for a bit in the sun before going into Zefi. Zefi is in fact part of Jak’s and there are two Jak’s restaurants nearby. Jak’s is a father-son enterprise ‘inspired by our belief in local produce, being healthy and happy in our lifestyles and wanting to provide London with a little taste of the Mediterranean’ (click here for their website).
It was pretty busy inside but we found a table and settled down to order drinks – a bottle of wine to share – and looked at the menu. It’s not really a restaurant so much as a bar-cafe and waiters take your order for drink but you go to the buffet at one end of the bar to order food (although there is a menu to look at first).
There’s a fabulous display of salads and cooked dishes and you choose what you want and then go back to your table and then the food is brought to you. We all chose hot dishes which came with two sides for roughly £12-14 each.
With the East Mediterranean touch it reminded me of being in Istanbul last September where we found that self-service places were popular and a good place to enjoy local food. This all led to a good discussion about Istanbul, Ottolenghi, and Kate and John’s trip to Jerusalem last year. This is what food can do! As for our choices today, Kate had the halibut with sides of mushrooms and spinach.
John went for beef lasagne with some tabbouleh and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and red onion.
I decided on a baked aubergine dish with tomatoes and chickpeas and a yogurt topping. I had tabbouleh and green beans with it.
The aubergine dish was delicious; not especially spicy but just a really good flavour. The tabbouleh was excellent and just as tabbouleh should be: lots and lots of parsley, finely chopped tomato and just a small amount of bulgur wheat in it and very very fresh. Too often in this country tabbouleh is served as mainly a bulgur salad with a small amount of parsley in it. Zefi had got it right and it tasted very good too. The beans were well cooked with just a slight bite left in them. They were pretty large plates of food and we had no room for desserts – although we’d seen some great cakes in the window. We settled on having just an espresso each at the end.
It was a great place for a leisurely informal lunch. The service was efficient and friendly and no one hurried us. People seemed settled in for the afternoon. We were surrounded by tables of groups of friends and some families. Next to us the chef appeared to have invited family along and was sitting at one end; plates of food were put in the middle for everyone to share. There was a buzz and lots of chatter but it wasn’t too noisy. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. We were in no particular hurry either but eventually got up and headed back outside to the sun, then made our way to the nearby Victoria & Albert museum for a bit of culture before heading home. It was a perfect way to spend a Saturday lunchtime.