★★★★☆ | Ceru, London
The sun is rising over D’Arbly street in the form of new restaurant Ceru.
On a street that is probably best known for the street that houses The Breakfast Club and it’s never ending queues, Ceru brings fresh and new light to this street that was once just a pass through from Soho to Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus.
Ceru, which means blue, is true to its theme in that when while you are sitting in the restaurant, it gives you a feeling of being in the Mediterranean, awash with bright colors and amazing food that mirrors the exact same type of food one can find from Cyprus to Syria and from Turkey to Jordan (Levantine – where the eastern Mediterranean meets the Middle East), with flavours that are literally out of this world.
Just by having a look at the menu you can tell that you are no longer in Soho Dorothy! Lots of pomegranates, mints, amazing salads, and meat with many spices, not including the amazing vegetarian options will mean that there is so so so much on the menu and that it will require multiple visits.
Our visit was on a hot and muggy night in July and we were ready for some fresh, and light, food. We had a sampling of all their dips – from the creamy textured and wonderful Hummus to the slightly zingy yet wonderful Ceru Hammara, and also the smooth Fadi (roasted zucchini, garlic, lemon and tahini), while the Pancar (Beetroot) is specific only to Beetroot lovers. Each dip costs £4.50 to £5.50 but please order the three dips in one dish at only £5.50 – a great deal to sample all of them.
The amazing Crisp Apple, Mint & Pomegranate Salad was to die for – literally. With its tangy lemon and olive oil dressing, it was a dish that was fresh, crisp, cool and perfect for a hot day – brava, and a steal at £6.00! We weren’t too overly keen on theSpice Battered Squid (£7) – our portion, while quite big, was a bit too chewy and not as well cooked as we would’ve liked it. But the Lamb Shoulder more than made up for it. Slow roasted for 5 hours smothered in 12 shawarma spices – it’s a meat lovers delight. It’s one slab of meat covered in pomegranate, fresh mint and pistachio sauce – and every bite was tender, flavourful and totally delicious. And at £11.50 – it’s a steal because of its enormous size.
If chicken is your thing, then, by all means, try either the Merguez Chicken (£10) or the Shish Tauk (£8.50), which was cubes of chicken breast, sprinkled with paprika and lemon, with herb yoghurt. While good, the paprika was a bit too spicey and the dish itself does not make a main meal. Luckily we also ordered a vegetarian dish – the Grilled Halloumi & Red Peppers with harissa dressing. We were told by the wonderful Karla to eat it as a sandwich, so we stacked up the pepper on top of the halloumi, and added a smattering of the dressing, and boom, it was delicious, bringing new flavours to our palates!
We could not have overlooked the side orders. My dining companion loved the Spiced Polenta & Feta Fries, with coriander and chili (£3.50) while the Orez Ceru rice (Arabic fried rice with crispy onions, sultanas & parsley) was the starch for our meal, and it might’ve been a bit too much as its a big bowl of rice – but delicious and different nonetheless.
In the cocktails department, we decided to go for unique and different. The Pistachio Meringue was definitely different – made with beefeater, pistachio, syrup, egg white, lime and cardamom syrup which my companion described as ‘liquid marzepan.’ I had the Turkish Delight – with Russian Standard, strawberry liquor, rose water and cranberry juice – it was sweet and berrylicious! And at only £7.50 each, these and all the other cocktails are good value as in most parts of Soho a £10 cocktail is the norm.
We didn’t partake in too much of the wine but had sips of the red Kalecik Karasi Turkish wine (which, we are told, is the bosses favourite). it was very grapey, while the Vranec Special Selecti Macedonian wine was full bodied. Other wine regions on the menu include Lebanon, Greece, including whites, roses and more reds.
And don’t worry about dessert as Ceru has got that covered. Dishes such as the Dark Chocolate Mousse (£4.50), Baklava (£5.50), Honey and Cardamom Panna Cotta (£4.50) and the yummy Galata Sundae (£4.50) are all delightful and yummy.
Ceru also raises funds for the World Land Trust, of which Sir David Attenborough is a patron, by offering BRITA filtered water for a discretionary £1 per jug. Donations go to the charity’s work in protecting and expanding Armenia’s Caucasus Wildlife Refuge that looks after critically threatened species exclusive to the region like the Snow Leopard, Syrian Brown Bear and Grey Wolf.
Ceru is healthy eating, with indulgent sharing dishes, an almost wholly gluten and dairy-free menu and lots of vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, in a setting that is rich and warm as it’s staff and food. It’s very very affordable as all the food and drinks we had came to a total of £91 – an excellent bargain!
Ceru is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
Ceru Soho is the Levantine’s brand second site. The first branch is located on Bute Street in South Kensington.
11 D’Arblay Street, Soho, London, W1F 8DS
020 3195 3002 | www.cerurestaurants.com
T: @CeruLondon| I: @CeruLondon | F: CeruRestaurants
Monday – Saturday: Midday – 11pm
Sunday: 11am – 10pm
Weekend brunch served 11am – 5pm, alongside All-Day Menu
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.