I’ve been reading and hearing good things about Honey & Co for some time; then of the opening of their larger grill room a few months ago in Great Portland Street. There are so many good restaurants in London these days that even a food blogger, whose thoughts fall deeply into food related things much of time, can’t manage to get to more than a handful. However, my interest in Honey & Smoke grew after my son, wife and friends ate there recently. As I was babysitting my grandson and watching Netflix while they were indulging gastronomically, I got their first-hand, newly formed reaction when they arrived home. And they thought it was great. Regular readers of this blog will know that my two great cuisine loves are the food of Italy and Middle Eastern food. So really, if my son thought Honey & Smoke was great – I was bound to love it. And I did.
I suggested to my good friend Annie that when we next met we went to Honey & Smoke. She’d been once before, quite recently, on a busy Saturday night, and had found it rather noisy in their basement area, but thought the food was great and was keen to go again, especially at an earlier time mid week. As it’s so popular I booked well in advance but still had to take quite an early sitting of 6.15 and was told – virtually standard now in popular London restaurants – that they’d need the table back 2 hours later at 8.15.
Inside, the restaurant has a very simple, minimalistic style and the kitchen at the back is on view (photo above from our table on the ground floor). The decor may be minimal but the welcome and service was warm and friendly, and happily, efficient too. The menu is interesting for, apart from 3 small plates, there aren’t starters. There are though 10 grills to choose from and Annie said these were different from the time she’d been before so they obviously change the menu quite often. If there were few starters there was a wonderful Spring Set Menu offering a selection of 9 mezze, a choice of any grill and then any dessert from the menu for £34.50. I’m sure you can guess where we went with our choices! Annie had had this the previous time and so had my son and friends, so frankly, I wasn’t going to miss out. Here’s what we had:
(1) Baba ganoush with seeded lavoush (2) Cauliflower florets with homemade amba & tahini.
(3) Moroccan sourdough (4) Greek olive oil, Kalamata olives, pickles
(5) Tomatoes & pomegranate tabule (6) Charred marinated courgettes & smoked labneh
(7) Sweet potatoes in embers, almond tahini, date honey & spring onions (8) Falafel & tahini
There was also Hummus with tatbilla & tahini but somehow I managed to miss photographing that. But as you can see – there was a lot of food! I had been warned and Annie and I discussed that we’d actually be happy just having the mezze on their own as our meal. They were, each and every one, wonderful. The baba ganoush was nicely smoky, just as it should be and I loved the crisp bread with it; the spicy cauliflower was fabulous (if I was forced to choose favourites here, this would be one); the bread was good and the olives fantastic – I like olives but there are some bad ones on offer, but not these for they were excellent. The tabule with the tomatoes and pomegranate had a bright, fresh taste; the charred courgettes were exceptionally good and I loved the smoked labneh; I’d never had a smoked version before. Finally, the sweet potatoes were so fabulous it reminded me I hadn’t bought sweet potatoes for far too long; and the falafels had a good flavour and texture. The photo-lacking hummus was excellent too.
The menu of grills for our mains offered a wide choice of fish, meat and vegetable. Annie chose Beef shish with zaalouk, marinated aubergine & ramsons (wild garlic) leaves.
She said this was really good. I chose Lamb kofta in the style of Adana, Gigandes beans & goats’ yogurt.
I love lamb kofte and actually make them quite often but it was great to eat these with all the gorgeous flavours of the dish.
Now you’re probably wondering how on earth we ate all this. Indeed, Annie said that on her previous visit they took their dessert home, which was nicely packaged up for them. Somehow we managed to eat our dessert last night. I know it sounds greedy, but there you are, it was all too good to resist, and actually I felt nicely full at the end but not overfull. But you need to be sure to arrive hungry as we did!
For dessert I had Feta & honey cheese cake on a kadaif base – a signature cake from Honey & Co. The ‘kadaif’ is that shredded wheat looking base you find in middle eastern cakes. It was rich and delicious. Annie had an equally delicious but less indulgent dessert of Alphonso mango & lime sorbet.
Wine came by the 125ml glass or bottle so we had a glass of French Picpoul, a white from Languedoc (£6) to start and for red with our mains, a glass of Tempranillo from Spain (£7.50).
It was really a fabulous meal. I liked the laid-back, informal ambience of the restaurant; appreciated the friendly and helpful service. There were no hiccups, no disappointments; it was full of wonderful, perfectly cooked dishes and thus an absolute delight to experience. I now feel I want to visit the original Honey & Co sometime and so impressed was I by all the gorgeous flavours last night, I’ve ordered the Honey & Co: Food From the Middle East cookbook today.