A Jewish Dream
… that he[Ezra Mishkin] might make it to London, England and that he might realise his dream of one day having his own restaurant…
Ezra Mishkin, I don’t care if he is fictional, historical, pseudo-historical, historical-fictional, fictional-historical. All I knew was this Jewish man from Ukraine sparked thoughts in Russell Norman’s head to open a “kind of Jewish deli” in his honour of his existence in the heart of Covent Garden. When I had my chicken soup and “alternated a sip with a hunk, sip with a hunk”, I couldn’t help being distracted by the decor, NYC’ Lower East Side blitzed with London’s East End quirk. A well-polished shopfront glared at Shrek the Musical and led way to a class-act gin and cocktail bar, where like all of Norman’s restaurants, you can perch for drinks and nibbles. Inside red leather banquettes were embraced by reclaimed bricked and timbered walls and a tiled ceiling. London’s smallest, cozy, sound proof private room was tucked in one corner and a long table in the other where natural light (if such thing exists in England) beamed through a glass roof. The long and limp lamps oozed charming warmth.. yes, in this pseudo-Jewish establishment, nothing – NOTHING – was reminiscent of Palestine, Israel, UN’s disputes or Sarkozy’s slagging off Netanyahu.
Home, not Home?
The menu at Mishkin’s was Jewish/Eastern European-inspired but left unkoshered. Dishes – Meatloaf, Hot Dog (from the famed Big Apple Hot Dog of Old Street), Chicken Soup and Salt Beef – ranged from being nibble size to quite shockingly huge portion size, while the price fluctuated between £4- £13. There were sections of “sandwich”, “meatballs”, “all day brunch” and “all day supper”!!
To start, I had this off-menu Duck Gribenes. Crispy fried duck skins that burst juicy fat. Then came Cod Cheek Pop Corn, a simple bowl of battered cod cheeks with salted, pepper, gremolata and chilli Though this a combo reminded me of Chinese “Salt and Pepper” with a twist, the Mishkin’s dish was done up with much better quality. The cheeks were crispy on the outside but popped appetising moisture. I quickly found the WOW factor in my Meatloaf which arrived as a dainty, guilt-free (as I’m on a diet) portion. One prick in the middle resulted in an eruption of yolk-y lava from a hidden soft-boiled egg. The coarsely ground, expertly seasoned meat was not just love at first bite but would last as a lifelong relationship. I asked for two of this. Then, to slurp was Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, where floated a baby-fist-sized herbed dumpling. The soup had a distilled taste. Not strong but heart-warming enough. Pickled Herring was a more Ukrainian dish (the origin of Mr. E. Mishkin) and featured zingy herring fillets on a finely chopped beetroot paste with additional intensity and contrast from slivers of pickled gherkins and scattering of dill. Not the best I had since Moscow but a nice find.
The dishes from the “Sandwich” section were much bigger than the above. Steamed Patty was served with a “supersize me” option, which for the sake of my “Skinny” branding, I declined. The normal sized one featured a densely packed patty of beefy robustness, well interjected by an obscene amount of caramelised sweet onions and stringy salted cheese. If asking for a “supersize”, you would get to have two of those patties and more cheese. Chopped Liver with Schamaltzed Radish was my second most favourite of the day. The small hill of fine liver paste was mixed with chopped egg white and a side of goose fat rendered radish & parsley salad. The freshness from the radish helped cleanse my palate off offal-y deliciousness well.
All went excellently well until this Reuben on Rye arrived. Probably the biggest toasted sandwich I’d ever eaten in years. Thin sheets of pastrami sandwiched by a steep dose of sour sauerkraut, gooey cheesy and awesomely crusty Rye. There was a lot of acidity in play from the sauerkraut to the pickled gherkin on the side, but the flavour from the delicate slices of pastrami was not lost. I was also delighted to find Salt Beef Slider from Spuntino (which has been off for months!!) to reappear on the Mishkin’s menu. But I didn’t have enough room for it today :’(
Five Times a Charm
There was no doubt that Mishkin’s will be an overnight success. There are also queues and a lot of phone bookings taken already but the bar area is reserved for walk-ins. I am amazed how Russell Norman makes all this happen – Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino, da Polpo – but at least I’m so glad that he has turned Catherine Street into a destination for those not on their way to see Shrek the Musical. Oh, and Tom the manager is quite hot, too.
Go for: Comfort food and really, really cool vibe.
RATING: 4 out of 5
25 Catherine Street
Tel. 020 7240 2078