Vibe: Sesame-soaked treat
Theme: Israel meets Yemen - by way of Italy?
Cost: £131.90 for two: 1 x bottle of house red wine, 1 x kubalah, 2 x starters, 2 x mains, 1 x dessert, 1 x arak
Find it: 2 Bagley Walk, Coal Drop's Yard, King's Cross, London N1C
Coal Office in Coal Drop's Yard, King's Cross, describes itself as "a food and design playground" for Middle Eastern cuisine. And, indeed, juggernaut chef Assaf Granit - of smash-hits The Palomar and The Barbary fame - has created a menu that is a lively exploration of the region, with a vibrant colour palette, smoking, charring and enough tahini to fill the Tigris.
Overlooking Coal Drop's Yard, Coal Office holds its own against adjacent new-ish-comer Hicce and cityboy favourite Caravan. A large terrace offers powerful heaters and a view of Granary Square (which on my visit was hosting a flamboyantly large salsa class) and the restaurant itself, designed by Tom Dixon, is all dark wood and marble in a deeply sexy way.
Presented with tiny brass shots of a gin with lemon verbena (fragrant to the brink of soapy), we forewent the manakish for the Yemeni kubala on the waiter’s recommendation and, boy, he was right. For this was an excellent bread, not dissimilar to brioche - soft and milky and ready to be slathered with zhoug and the first tahini dollops of the night.
Tahini is very much the name of the Coal Office game and, although tempted by the Shkedia (kingfish tartare with almonds, labneh, ginger and sorrel), I went for a double sesame whammy in the Josperised Aubergine. The Josper's combination of careful temperature control with the flames of a grill is artful, and it was an inspired stroke to elevate the nuttiness of herbed green tahini, black tahini, dukka and smoked aubergine with the sweet punch of raspberries.
I was a little startled to see the mushroom ragu on truffled polenta, with its more classically Italian flavours, on this menu - but it was well-balanced enough and has roots as Granit's star dish in Jerusalem restaurant Machneyuda.
The Shikshikit 3.0 brought on sesame strike four: charred lamb and beef kebabs on a more solid aubergine with green tahini, a mountain of dill and "Kurdish dips" which included an astonishingly puckering whipped preserved lemon. The poor waiter took my badgering and ravings about the whipped lemon and told me it was down to even more salt and a lot of beating.
Undeterred by quintuple sesame, my dinner companion chose a sesame and coriander seed crumble on yoghurt panna cotta with a sesame tulle while I got overly excited by arak on the menu and forked out nine quid for a small glass.
Stuffed to the hilt and continuing to love-bomb the waiter, I have emerged with four new Coal Office playlists on Spotify, featuring Alabina, 47 Soul, A-WA, Balkan Beat Box and other classics as well as less well-known Middle Eastern artists. I fully recommend "Hafla - coal office" for some upbeat jams.
Rating: 7.5/10. Solid flavour profiles, chic atmosphere, pricey arak, not sure about the truffle.