A collaboration between designer Tom Dixon and chef/entrepreneur Assaf Granit, who in London co-owns (with siblings Zoë and Layo Paskin) The Palomar and one of my favourite haunts, The Barbary, Coal Office’s roots are of critical acclaim. In Jerusalem, he’s behind the equally successful hotspots Machneyuda and Yudale. Having visited the former (with some difficulty given the impossibility of securing a booking), I can confirm that it’s as brilliant, or rather even better, than the London outposts.
Housed in a Victorian building that follows the curve of the Regent’s Canal, Coal Office is elevated over Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square, and rightly so – following my meal here, I can confirm it’s probably the star of this whole new and developing space. They’ve also adapted to the challenges presented by Covid-19 and its lockdowns remarkably well: they’ve started a Fresh Food Hub, which means you can follow their Instagram to find out which recipe they’re going to be making the next day and pre-order it by email. Alternatively, if you’d rather make it yourself, ingredients can be delivered to you so you can follow the recipe with them. But for me, nothing beats food eaten from the (restaurant) kitchen to the (restaurant) table and so post lockdown.1, Coal Office was high on my list to finally try, having loved the siblings’ other ventures.
Inside, it’s not an immediately obvious layout for a restaurant due to the slender space, but it’s more cavernous than first appears: essentially a series of knocked-through coal storage rooms in a curvaceous tunnel. It’s spread across three floors, with two outdoor terraces, a bakery, an eating counter, two dining areas and private eating options aplenty. A bit more formality occurs as the restaurant stretches on and though (like their other restaurants) the counter overlooking the open kitchen would have been most fun to sit at, my companion and I were seated at a very well socially distanced table upstairs. As part of the recently launched Tom Dixon Studios, the interiors are muted and tasteful: think pale wood, bare brick, statement lighting and slinky furniture.
Such a backdrop is perfect for Granit, who (along with Ottolenghi) has basically reinvented the way we eat Middle Eastern cuisine. Granit’s mission statement here is to “deconstruct the kitchen,” with cooking and prepping across all floors, and everybody involved, from the waiters to the guests themselves. So does it work? Yes! The joie-de-vivre of this place is infectious; there’s an atmosphere of natural camaraderie among the chefs and waiting staff.
Onto the Office food, even the carb-averse should start their meal here with one of the breads. Whether you go here for lunch, dinner, or a grab-and-go, you should absolutely try their Kubalah or Manakish (£4.50). My companion and I went for the latter, paired on our visit with their very irresistible hummus. Tearing it apart, the bread easily mops up dips and the hummus was everything I was hoping: creamy, tahini-studded and utterly delish.
Onto the main sharing plates, the options marry the flavours of modern Jerusalem beautifully well – bringing together a melting pot of flavours from north Africa and the Middle East. From the sharing dishes, we went for Bish Bash (£9): a vegan tangle of oranges, olives, crunchy almonds, harissa and fresh green herbs. All herbs are grown in planters on the first-floor terrace – very sustainable – and the aniseedy notes of the seasoning were beautiful. The sweetness of the orange, the heat of fresh chilli and the zing of the coriander, mint and parsley combo married together effortlessly well.
Next came the Freekeh Freaky (£15), a sophisticated green wheat risotto of celeriac, chilli, skordalia (garlic), broccoli and almonds. With a subtle, nutty richness, the dish reminded me of the creative style of the Palamor. The sweetness of the roasted garlic was enveloping.
The Josperized Aubergine (£20.20) was probably the star of the evening: though it comes with a high price tag for a plate of aubergine, its combination of black and green tahini, with pistachios and jewel-like pomegranates is melt-in-the-mouth – it brought back good memories of the smoky, unapologetically bold smokey flavours of the Barbary.
The staff here, as mentioned, are a charismatic bunch: they explain and enthuse about the dishes and make you feel at home. Though we were too full for afters, we were presented with a bowl of berries and moreishly sweet sesame seed tuiles: a perfect palette cleanser, making the most of the last of summer produce. This reminded me of the Palamor or Machneyuda, where the chefs are downing shots with their diners on a regular basis!
Everyone who works here clearly love what they do. And so they should: this is a good-looking space, with cracking service and bold food. It’s the restaurant King’s Cross has been waiting for and a fantastic theme and variation on it’s sister restaurants. If I worked / lived nearby, I’d definitely be picking up food from their Hub on a far too regular basis.
Coal Office, 2 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross, London N1C 4PQ