The far end of Kensington High Street has always been a bit sleepier than the business end, nearer to Hyde Park. As shops peter out and the only passing traffic are people on their way home. The closure of Kensington Odeon has probably reduced the traffic even further.
This fabulous restaurant (and possibly the Design Museum) will give you more than a valid reason to venture there. Melabes on Kensington High Street is an unassuming restaurant serving on trend Israeli food. I’ve walked past the place so many times but had no clue kind of food they were serving.
We bumped into a tennis coach friend on the way in who had brought his American visitor for a meal here. He said we were in for a treat.
Upstairs, only a few of the tables were occupied. Surprising, not one but two groups of Kensington Mums had manouvered their hefty prams up the narrow stairs for lunch. This must mean something.
Head Chef Aviv Baum arrived in London as a tourist a few years ago and decided to stay. His restaurant serves food that reminds him of his home town. It was described as Israeli street food, but rejigged to serve in a restaurant.
A meal at Melabes means to have lots of small dishes, shared. A few dips, a salad and some grilled meat or fish. Tear off a bit of bread, wrap it around some meat or not, dip it into one of the many sauces. A myriad of ways to enjoy the food here.
Don’t be too precious about courses as it is best to just go with the flow of when the dishes are ready. It’s a convivial way to enjoy a meal and always better if you have a bigger group, that means you can order more.
On top of the menu are a list of breads. I’d highly recommend the garlic laffa, a flat bread made in house and cooked in their pupose built Tabun oven. If you peek into their open kitchen, you will see this bulbous oven in the corner. The sesame embelished Jerusalem bagel is a circular tube of soft bread, great for dipping into all the sauces.
On the menu are familiar Mediterranean dishes like Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, falafel. Don’t be tempted to stick to what you know here.
The menu is made for sharing. Lots of little plates with delicious things. A few dips, a salad, a couple of skewers of grilled meats or prawns.
Whole roasted Tel-Aviv style cauliflower is one of the stand out dishes, made famous by another Israeli chef is one of their best sellers. Charred and smokey from the tabun, served drizzled with a little chilli oil.
Loved the chickpea and coriander falafel, crispy and soft in the middle served on a tahini sauce. It’s so good and this will you come back for more.
Chargrilled aubergine was soft, smokey and dressed with tahini and red onion and parley sauce.
Sweet potato and fried goats cheese drizzled with pomegranate molasses, voted the best dish by my dining companion.
Velvet Hummus is the dish that is most raved about. Flavoured with cumin and a chilli lemon sauce, there just is not enough of that delicious garlic laffa to mop it all up.
There are both Kosher and Halal options for the meats on the menu. The choices are lamb and beef kebabs, rib-eye skewers, grilled prawn or a platter of gyros which is a massive platter with the meat served on flat bread.
If you are like me with the separate compartment for dessert, you won’t want to miss their Mousse Mess which is a saffron and honey mousse with a date and pecan biscuit, honeycomb and pomegranate.
Coconut Malabi is one of the lighter choices, rosewater drizzled coconut pudding sprinkled with roasted peanuts and desiccated coconut.
Our waitress’ favourites were the spiced apple cake and Chocolate Bang which we didn’t get to try. Maybe next time.
Besides the ala carte menu, there is a great value £11.50 lunch menu with a selection of grilled meats with a side dish and a drink.
Melabes is worth travelling across town for. If you are looking for somewhere to eat near the Design Museum, Holland Park or on Kensington High Street, this would be a great option. Terrific Mediterranean Israeli food, made by a talented chef and delivered with such enthusiasm.
221 Kensington High St,
London W8 6SG
Tel: 0207 937 3003
EatCookExplore was a guest of Melabes