Tel Aviv is know for its ‘simple, done well’ approach to food. So we wanted to put Clerkenwell’s latest restaurant – Sarona – to the test.

First impressions are important in the hospitality business. And Sarona does well. A lot of attention to detail has gone into the renovation of the space. We particularly liked three aspects: the central bar that is perfect for a delicious cocktail; the ground floor dining space which is bathed in ambience from the skylight; and the upstairs bar which in our opinion is a good spot for a casual party atmosphere.

Sarona refers to a suburb of Tel Aviv which has a number of pop-up food restaurants. The menu is focused and appeals to a range of tastes and appetites. The concept involves sharing and we were not disappointed with the recommendations of Matt, the general manager. Many classic Israeli dishes are on the menu: hummus, chopped salad and chicken schnitzel.

The chopped grilled aubergine made for an excellent starter which was full of mint and pomegranate flavours. The small plates were good too: with the soft texture of the Harissa Roast Sweet Potato contrasting perfectly with the Crispy Cauliflower.

Larger plates are also available. The Spiced Tuna steak was lightly cooked and worked well with the rocket salad. The Shakshuka needed more spice, but the chef told us that they are currently testing different variations of this dish. We also noticed a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu, including Bourekas.

The dessert menu consisted of three dishes. We tried the brownie (a little too sweet) and the home baked rogelach with pistachio cream (too heavy for our tastes). Matt told us that the team is still playing with the options here. In our view, lighter desserts would better compliment the mains: watch this space for affogato and pana cotta.

Overall Sarona hit the mark for the ‘simple, done well’ approach to Tel Aviv dishes. For us, the standout feature was the cocktails with interesting combinations such as Expresso Martini made with Turkish coffee. The lunch menu and weekend brunch look good too. A well designed space with good value Israeli food. Check it out!

7.7 / 10

Words and Images by Simon Day