Choosing a ‘best’ place to eat in London must be impos…balderdash! Just go to Coal Office and just find out for yourself.
I like restaurants. And I like reviews (check me out: i'm in the top percentile of Tripadvisor reviewers apparently, which is either incredibly impressive or desperately sad…you decide). So anyway, I guess restaurant reviews are my 'thang'.
You may think that choosing a favourite eatery in London is like asking a mother which kid she prefers – she'll make light of the question….say it's impossible to choose…and that she loves them all the same, but in reality it's always the youngest. The youngest with dimples. Coal Office is that child.
Located in Granary Square, by Coal Drops Yard, first impressions aren't amazing – it's hard to find and as you enter you're met by quite loud music and dancing chefs in an open kitchen. This bar/dining area will either delight or alarm you. I was in the latter camp as I wanted to actually hear my dining companion, but as we were led through the restaurant, the main dining room opened up at the back and we were plonked there. It was serene and intimate, but with a nice buzz, and features great fixtures and fittings. That's another thing you'll notice – the crockery and lighting give this place an immediate cool factor and in fact the restaurant itself is a collaboration between British designer Tom Dixon, who provides the decor, and renowned chef Assaf Granit.
The staff are helpful, and professional. They come explain the menu, stay alert to your table and also leave you alone when you're chattering away. Perfect. You're offered a gin cocktail shot as you peruse the menu, and drinks are generally decent, the cocktails could be bigger but the wine list is extensive. The most important factor of all though is the food – and it's sublime.
Israeli cuisine is all the rage now it seems, and back in Tel Aviv there is a serious culinary revolution going on. Coal Office has managed to bridge the gap, as my table neighbour, who actually lives in Tel Aviv for part of the year, told me Coal Office compares well with what he eats out there. As you'd expect they serve superb breads: pretzels, challah and the dreamy, oily brioche-y 'kubalah' from sister eatery Palomar makes an appearance here, as well as fantastic aubergine dishes, but there are also items which aren't so typical like a clever take on ravioli with grated yoghurt. These all lead up to the meat courses, which will just blow you away.
We ordered the unpronounceable meat kebab as a main, along with lamb chops, both of which were delightful. Food envy kicked in when we saw our table neighbours devour the bone marrow dish, but it didn't last long once we sampled the series of dips that accompanied our kebab: one was lemony, another was creamy, the next was fiery, and so on. They complemented the meat perfectly.
Desserts are an afterthought as you'd expect from somewhere that takes its main menu so seriously – there's a rice pudding from the region, a chocolate thing, and a basbousa (a small semolina cake) which came with tahini ice cream and which was tasty but again, slightly small. It didn't matter too much as we were still slightly delirious from the shuk…shik? The kebab basically.
So why do I rate Coal Office number 1, above sister resto The Barbary, above Kiln, and above all the established michelin starred places? Imagine a buzzy, fun, top-tier restaurant in Tel Aviv, that's been dropped right in the middle of London, that has great staff and that's borrowed a load of cups and plates from an amazingly cool designer. That's Coal Office. And you should probably not even read the rest of this sentence as you're wasting valuable table booking time.