Sarona Restaurant Review

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By Annette Kellow

There is something intoxicating about Middle Eastern Cusine. I always find it unique, appetizing and a reminder of being on holiday! So when I heard about new bar and restaurant Sarona, conveniently located on Clerkenwell Road and just a stones throw from Smithfield market, I knew it was time to see what it had to offer my taste buds.

I love a restaurant that’s intimate and where you can actually hear your date talking, rather than too loud music where you have to shout over each other! So I was impressed that Sarona was warm and inviting with low lighting and quiet calm tables. With a newly appointed Executive Chef and an exciting seasonal menu, Sarona offers a modern take on Middle Eastern delights such as Neck of lamb stew, turnips & swedes, stuffed courgettes, raisins, dill & Lebanese Yogurt, sautéed chicken livers, Jerusalem mix seasoning, wine sauce, onions, Lamb mafrum with tomato sauce and Spicy Shakshuka.

The first thing they laid out was a plate of warm pitta and hummus- and one may say it is only hummus but being partial to a little (O.K a lot) I dived straight in. For my main I went for the Stuffed courgettes, lamb, raisins, dill & Lebanese yoghurt. Would I like any sides? I was enticed by the Israeli salad so decided to try that, which is a mix of tomato and onion in a very special dressing (best to share with your date as the onions are raw!) I found the food indulgent but still healthy with lots of vegetables included so you still felt you were getting a good dose of your daily intake.

Executive Chef Aviv Lavi has come to Sarona from Café Hampstead, but has left his culinary footprints in many corners of the world. Lavi trained in classical French cuisine before working in Mexico for two years and on his return to Tel Aviv, he worked under Rafi Cohen at Raphael before a highly inspirational stint with chef Raz Rahav at the city’s famous OCD restaurant.

Lavi’s new produce-led menu is influenced by the culinary techniques and ingredients from a myriad of countries spanning Greece, Turkey, Israel, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and beyond. Focusing on simple seasonality, Lavi has ensured that every ingredient on the menu serves a purpose and the simple yet thoughtful combination of flavours reflects the diverse heritage of the countries that he’s been inspired by.

The plates and table setting was also fitting with the theme and everything looked like it had attention to detail which although taste is important so is presentation! The same went for the interior of the restaurant, which kept with the theme of eastern exotica and had a rustic style.

Spread over two floors, Sarona’s interiors are designed with a cool and urban feel, while earthy hues of orange, terracotta and pink are reminiscent of the Middle Eastern markets from which Sarona takes its name. The ground floor restaurant features a large central bar accented by bright pink tiling, exposed brickwork and low lighting, which complements Lavi’s take on modern Middle Eastern dining.

Washed down with their house champagne (which I know is not very middle eastern but still it went down an absolute treat) I was transported for a couple of hours to a very different and very beautiful place!