I remembered yesterday that I had to write-up my recent meal at Blooms. It is one of the oldest kosher restaurants in London and is in the deli, salt-beef and tongue style of Ashkenazi tradition. The type of food that kept Polish peasants warm - and therefore alive - whilst plowing potatoes. Such concerns are not so relevant to the inhabitants of Hampstead Garden Suburb, the 21st century Pale.
The meal I had was ok, the salt beef was a bit drier than it should have been. But, it did have a good flavour, thanks to the ring of fat attached to it. For all you quivering weight-watchers, you don't eat the fat, you just want it to impart flavour to the meat it is snuggling next to. The chips, disappointingly were frozen, rather than the hand-cut version I remember they used to serve. More positively, the sweet-sour pickles packed a punch and the coleslaw was peppery and thankfully was not abominated by onion. Despite this somewhat mixed meal, I really enjoyed myself. I had not been to Blooms in years and I loved the atmosphere, the familiarity of the decor and the waiters, and the food itself was pleasingly comfortable but far from stellar.
I was therefore horrified to discover last night that they are currently closed for a re-furb. Usually, re-furb means we're shutting down. But given the licence application plastered to the front window, the massive notice in the window and on their website, I am confident this does not herald the end of an institution.
I am intrigued to see what they are doing to the place. The infamous mural of street life left a lot to be desired (above), but was an essential element, as was the enormous mirror running down the right hand wall. I'm particularly interested to know if they are planning on tinkering with the menu. The majority of kosher restaurants in London, and the few near Blooms in Golders Green, are Middle Eastern: lots of grilled meats, hoummus, tahina, that sort of thing. Dizengoff is the best, with the friendliest service and the best grilled meat, Solly's is a distant second.
However, the stodgy mittel-European food served up at Blooms appears to be going out of fashion. Or is it? Afterall, there are few restaurants in London that win plaudits as much as The Wolseley which is famed for its chopped liver (which I haven't tried) and its cucumber salad (which I have).
I hope the team behind Blooms stick to their guns and don't veer too far from the original. I also hope they get rid of those sodding frozen chips and replace them with the real version. I'll report back soon after they have reopened on 11 March.