29 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JG,
0203 195 3001/www.cerurestaurants.com
Fitzrovia has an eclectic and vibrant restaurant scene ranging from the austere modernism of Ollie Dabbous’ eponymous restaurant to the fizz and haute hot-dog frivolity of Bubbledogs. The latest arrival is Ceru, a three-month Levantine pop-upwhich Fiona and I have been asked to review; it’s an all-day kind of place where you can breakfast on a za’atar laced wrap and move onto something more substantial for lunch and dinner.
Ceru is a friendly if cramped space seating only 20 on cheerful yellow high stools either at a wooden counter or at the high tables that circle the room. The food offer is based around small sharing plates which adds to the informal feel of the place.
Executive chef is Tom Kime, whose credits include The River Café, Le Pont de la Tour and Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant, and the menu takes inspiration from his passion for Levantine cuisine showcased in his award-winning book “Tasting”.
From 5-7pm Ceru has a happy hour when all cocktails are just £5. Fiona and I tried the Pomegranate Margarita (£8) with fresh pomegranate, lime, lemon, agave syrup & mint which had an unexpected salt/sugar rim, and the excitingly named Passionista (£8) with vanilla-infused vodka, fresh passion fruit & kaffir lime syrup, which was particularly good .
We started with a selection of dips (£6.50) which include Pancar (roast beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and pistachio) and Fadi (fried baby courgette purée with tahini, roast garlic, yoghurt & lemon) served with freshly baked pita; they all had great texture and zinged with flavour.
Seared Sea Bream, oregano and chilli served with warm lemon dressing and fried garlic (£9) was a lovely way to serve this fish; it was iridescent, flaky, full of flavour and able to stand up to the robust herbs and spices. By this point we were glugging a bottle of Lebanese Ixsir Grande Reserve (£26.50), a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon and Chardonnay with a very fresh mouth feel and oak and vanilla notes.
Slow Roast Lamb shoulder with Shawarma spices (£9) was fall off the bone tender with delicious spicing.
Roast Baby Aubergine with tomato and chilli (£6) were spicy and squishy.
Prawn, tomato and feta tasted like the best of home-cooking; juicy prawns given a kick by the feta.
Salad of Baby Spinach and Labne £5.50 with dried cranberries and toasted flatbread with za’atar was a great collision of crunch, sweet and chlorophyll.
We tried two of the three desserts; a dish of roast pears with cinnamon and orange zest (£4.50) had a rich flavour but wasn’t uniformly cooked-some bits were crunchy and some soft. Yoghurt, walnut and pistachio cake (£5.50) came with vanilla poached apricot and was moist and tasty.
Post pop-up I’d love to see Ceru located in Soho rather than the primmer environs of Fitzrovia. The food is reasonably priced, focussed and sits at the level of recent Soho hits such as Palomar, and with Ceru’s lack of formality it seems like an obvious fit. I’d go.