Eat Here: Ceru Restaurant, South KensingtonBy Angelica Malin
Oh boy, are you in for a treat. If you love Levantine food – the kind where you can order for everyone, each dipping in and sharing plates around the table until your tummy groans with the weight of hummus, falafel and pitta bread, a broad smile on your face – then this is the place for you. I’ve watched Ceru’s journey like a creepy lover; as it grew from a pop-up on the Southbank, to a semi-permanent residence of Charlotte Street, a new space in East London, and, now, their new permanent home in trendy South Kensington, each time rooting for the restaurant, knowing they were onto something great. I paid a visit to the new space in Kensington, in true stalker style, just to make sure their pitta bread was, still, really that good. I’m pleased to report it’s as banging as ever. Here’s why it’s about time you discovered the new Ceru:
Ceru takes inspiration from all corners of the Middle East, and makes the cuisine their own, with flair, style and a modern twist. A contemporary Levantine restaurant in South Kensington, serving stunning dishes and drinks inspired by the flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean coast, the vibe of the place will seduce you. Think beautiful leather booths for romantic, intimate dinners, a warm, low-lit ambience and little Eastern touches that transport you to somewhere far removed from the city streets. Even stepping into the oriental, tiled bathroom is an experience in itself.
The restaurant is surprisingly unpretentious for the area; the kind of place you can turn up in your Nikes, like me, having been caught in the rain, and a grab a quick dinner, or spend hours with a big group of friends, sharing all the Middle Eastern delights over delicious cocktails. A restaurant for all occasions, I’d say. In that way, Ceru has stayed true to the philosophy of eating around the Middle East, where dining is an experience to be shared with friends, family, lovers, something that brings you closer together and reminds us of the real meaning of breaking bread.
But what about the food? Now, I’m someone who believes themselves to be quite the expert on Middle Eastern food – I’ve eaten my fair share of hummus, dips and mezze in my time, as my family lives between London and Tel Aviv. But, honestly, the food at Ceru blew my mind. Their all-day menu contains nearly 100 ingredients with over 20 spices and is entirely gluten-free, as long as you avoid the Greek pita bread, and you can really taste the goodness. Each dish is an absolute winner; full of flavour, skill, global-inspiration and just a touch of intrigue that keeps you on your toes. The concept is one of sharing plates, where 5 or 6 dishes are ordered to share amongst the table. In the name of research, we ordered the entire menu.
We started with their homemade houmous with green chilli, which is rich, bursting with flavour and the perfect thing with their freshly-baked pitta bread, straight out the oven. The Pancar dip, made wit roasted beetroot, yoghurt, garlic and crushed pistachio, is a must-try for its rich, earthy flavours. You seriously can’t miss the spiced warm cauliflower and walnut salad – one of my favourite dish of the evening. The salad comes with beautiful little touches of pomegranate, spring onion and mint, which freshen up and elevate the whole salad to something truly next-level.
For something more substantial, you simply have to try the fillet of sea bream – it comes with a warm lemon dressing, fried garlic, oregano and red chilli, which is just divine. The fish is melt-in-the-mouth soft, bursting with chilli flavour, and a hint of sourness from the lemon. Perfect.
The menu is also seriously veggie-friendly – over half the dishes are vegetarian (as well as gluten-free), many of which are also vegan. My absolute favourite is the fried halloumi and grilled red peppers with a harissa dressing – the cheese has the perfect, chargrilled flavour, perfect with the combination of sweet pepper.
You also seriously can’t miss the roasted aubergine, which has a smoky richness, served alongside a delicious creamy herb yogurt. Finish it all off with a side order of the roasted pumpkin with spiced sesame seed snap, coriander and tahini sauce, for the most perfect combination of sweet and savoury flavours. We didn’t have room for dessert (can you guess why?) but I’ve got my eyes on the dark chocolate mousse for my next visit.
There’s a great selection of Eastern-inspired drinks at Ceru, including fresh juices, lemonade and unusual cocktail creations. I loved the Too Hot To Handle with Famous Grouse, Disaronno, chilli, lemon and sugar, because chilli cocktails are my jam. If you’d like something sweet, try the Passionista cocktail with Russian Standard, Passoa, lime, vanilla, passion fruit and egg white, it’s a local favourite. And if you’re off the sauce, their homemade lemonades and made only with fresh ingredients and homemade flavoured syrups, with daily-changing flavours. Delicious.
If you haven’t noticed, I fell in love with everything about the new Ceru. It’s the touches, guys, the little touches on each dish that bring it to life, showing a real understanding of the cuisine of the Middle East, as well as an attention to detail, flavour and presentation. A sprinkle of herbs here, a touch of yogurt there, a touch of spice everywhere, it’s just the perfect cuisine for when you want a real flavour sensation. In my books, this is the most exciting new restaurant to open recently, and one that you have to make top of your hit list. Take my word for it: just go.
Ceru Restaurant is at 7-9 Bute St, Kensington, London SW7 3EY. Photos by Paul Winch-Furness.