After Nyne’s Dominic Stevenson is in Levantine Heaven at Ceru

Within the blink of an eye, they’re gone.

The latest pop-up restaurant usually leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who don’t have the eagle eyes to find them before they’re booked up until they close.

Ceru however, snuggled into the heart of Fitzrovia at the south end of Rathbone Street and Charlotte Street, has stuck around long enough for me to take my humble self through their doors – armed with only the high-expectation brought on by a much talked about restaurant serving one of your favourite cuisines, and a bloody good book.

I arrived early, probably a bit too early for my booking, but nevertheless I was greeted with a smile as warm as the yellow-hued walls and shown to a stool at the bar. The restaurant is small, but genuinely intimate, and you don’t struggle for space at the tables, or the bar, where there is ample leg room for even the tallest of us.

The décor is fresh, and feels organic with its huge wooden topped bar. It has kept its achingly cool newly finished look, it only opened in late 2014, but feels like it’s been there forever – immediately Mediterranean and palpably vibrant.

As I let my eyes drift up and down the menu, delivered to my perch at the bar was an Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned, for those who haven’t explored cocktails, is a short drink made by mixing sugar with bitters then adding whiskey or brandy, and finishing with a twist of citrus rind. This warm, sweet, citrus thrill in a tumbler was a ridiculously sublime start to my evening which helped to shake off the last of the crisp evening February air outside.

I placed my order and then opened my book, only to shut it again, pick up my drink, look about and smile. Ceru has a real feel good factor to it and it was lovely to feel the day fall to the floor around me before picking my book up again and diving in.

I began my meal with their four in one dip selection – this consisted of pancar (roast beetroot, pistachio nuts, yogurt, garlic), fadi (fried baby courgette puree, tahini, garlic, yogurt, lemon), spicy roast pepper with chilli, walnut and pomegranate molasses, and houmous with green chilli and lemon – and a basket of freshly baked pitta bread.

Thankfully there was no one watching when I gracefully lifted the plate to my face to get the final remaining dip morsels after the bread had gone.

The dips were fresh, vibrant in colour and taste, and although I had my favourites, pancar and fadi, I would recommend getting the selection plate.

For my main I picked the slow roasted lamb shoulder with shawarma spices – as recommended by the manager, my waiter, the man sat next to me who had been several times before, and a lady who was sat in the window relaxing after her own meal. To accompany it I ordered spiced roast potatoes.

Ceru keep their menu minimalist and the benefits of this are very tangible, the freshness and invention, throughout the dining experience. From the cocktails to the food to the seating plan, each step taken seemed purposeful – a remarkable achievement for a restaurant in a temporary space.

The lamb, dressed with pomegranate and pistachio, is probably the best lamb that I have ever tasted. It was cooked to absolute perfection, with meat that fell apart as if it had been hand crafted according to my every wish. This standardisation of excellence, as shown by the numerous people who recommended the dish, is another one of the benefits of a small menu.

They have seven vegetarian dishes and salads, two fish dishes and three meat dishes and I wish I could have tried them all.

To end my evening I ordered their daily special dessert which was an orange and lemon tart in filo pastry. This was another huge tick in the Ceru box, a dessert that was so full of flavour and fresh fruit and light enough so that someone full of wine, whiskey and lamb could easily manage this treat.

Over all I have to confess that I found Ceru to be faultless. I am not even sure if I can be mad at them if they find a permanent home which isn’t as convenient to me as their current one, because I’d definitely go off my own beaten track to hunt down some more of that lamb.

Ceru is a lesson to us all – read a lot, check the food pages, keep an eye out, because you don’t know what you may miss out on.

@CeruLondon

http://www.cerurestaurants.com

@Fantastical_Dom