Barely three months old and Ariel Schiff’s Penelope’s restaurant (named after his daughter) is already on the gastronomic hot list. Penelope’s is attached to the newly opened stylish Amano hotel, nevertheless, the restaurant is likely to become a destination in its own right.
Penelope’s has its own entrance that leads to a well-designed yet sometimes frivolous interior that includes a well-stocked bar. The menu offers an exotic style of cuisine that fuses Spanish and Israeli food (inspired by Schiff’s upbringing in both Tel Aviv in Israel and Madrid in Spain) resulting in utterly delicious flavours.
Turkish-born executive chef 29-year-old, Fezile Ozalgan, who previously worked at Jose Pizarro, Hovarda and Barboun in Shoreditch, was tasked with putting together the menu and she attributes her expertise in this style of cooking to her Turkish background and the wonderful meals her mother made. This is wholesome yet exotic food very well done.
Subdued lighting, sultry dark colours, leather chairs, some blue velvet banquets, interesting tasselled ceiling decor, and randomly, a whimsical oversized metal bath full of large transparent balls, I guess to depict a bubble bath. It’s an open kitchen with stools and a bar where you can perch and have a drink.
Service is buoyant by staff dressed in black and a bartender who gets into the Gatsby groove with a white jacket and black lapels.
Food & Drink
The idea is to order dishes from the starter menu and dishes from the main menu intended for sharing. Food turns up as and when it’s ready.
We started with an Israeli meze from the Say Yeah menu with pots of green harissa, salsa tomatoes, spicy yoghurt and whipped cod’s roe served with taboon bread (flat bread not dissimilar to pitta) which we dipped into the pots for mouthfuls full of flavour.
From the same menu, we ordered the Tiradito (this is similar to ceviche) – a ball of raw salmon avocado passion fruit with passion fruit tiger milk sauce poured around it. Lots of tang and soft textures.
From the Shine On menu came the Sharwama me Hanshama. This is chicken shawarma but not in the traditional Middle Eastern style sliced from a cone-shaped rotisserie. This shawarma is chicken breast marinated for 24 hours in mango amba seasoning and then aggressively chargrilled. It’s served on a sauce of ancient grain mujadara and Baharat yoghurt and skewered. The chicken is gorgeously soft with a slight tang thanks to the amba marinade detectable through the chicken’s chargrilled texture.
The Shed Hayam Couscous is a generous plate of tempura monkfish served on Israeli-style couscous – little balls of wheat rather than the more ground couscous widely available.
Within its midst are Wakame seaweed and saffron. The fish was soft and the tempura batter was perfect for this fish.
We accompanied this with Baharat Patatas – Spanish chunks of potatoes fried in olive oil, seasoned with lime and dill and an Israeli tomato salad jazzed up with pomegranate gems and onions.
Desserts after the feast we had just enjoyed were hard to contemplate.
However, the originality of the Baklava Cheesecake was tempting. A creamy cheesecake in baklava pastry topped with pistachio and walnut and served with bourbon vanilla.
Also on the menu was the excitingly rich Tarta de Chocolate with miso caramel, and sesame soil and served with ice cream which somehow landed on our table. Both were gorgeous on the palate but far too rich to finish.
The drinks menu has tens of gins, rums and mezcal and a shortish list of wines. Our drinking that night was all about the cocktails. The bar is manned by the effervescent head bartender Freddie Campbell who creates his cocktails with much gusto.
We opted for La La Land – Mediterranean flavours of Le Tribute gin, Bergamot Italicus and fresh basil; Obsesión – an overindulgence of Plantation Isle of Fiji infused with caramel popcorn that came with a side of popcorn. We ended the night with a mighty, plucky Espresso Martini.
The question on our minds was just how did Freddie manage to get the foam on the cocktails so perfect? So here is Freddie’s tip: Don’t use egg white use the non-dairy Aqua Faba for longer-lasting foam.
Verdict: Though Penelope’s is attached to Amano hotel, the restaurant has all the ingredients needed for a good night out. Gastro dining, elevated cocktails, romantic surroundings and if you wanted to stay the night, you can. You might say Penelope’s is a restaurant with rooms.
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- Hotel Review: Amano Hotel, Covent Garden, London
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