Restaurant 1701 is the only kosher restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide in the UK it also happens to be situated within the grounds of Bevis Mark synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Britain, dating back to 1701. Naturally The Handbook were intrigued and went over to Bishopsgate to check it out.
Behind imposing wrought iron gates and through the square the restaurant is just off the side of the synagogue, I had heard it was an intimate affair, and it certainly was. Despite being open plan and without booths or corners to hide in, the small room was quiet and peaceful. For a Wednesday it was busy with at least half of the tables full and even though everyone was chatting it was still calm, which from the normal hustle and bustle of most restaurants was welcomed.
Our waiter was wonderfully attentive and explained everything on the menu making suggestions, so on his recommendation we went for the pastilla, chunks of braised lamb neck in crisp phyllo pastry, spiced nuts, parsnip purée, capers and golden raisin jus. It was fragrant, warming and delicious, and well worth the recommendation. We also went for the Sabich, a miso infused aubergine, with a slow cooked egg yolk, pickled brown mushrooms and tahini. The yolk was creamy, rich and decadent and the tahini worked well but the aubergine was missing something, it needed more flavour, more miso perhaps? It just needed something to give it more presence in the dish.
For the main course we ordered the Flanken, wonderful chunks of succulent beef ribs which melted in the mouth and was complimented by celeriac puree and pomegranate jus, it was absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked. We then ordered the potato dumplings which came with onion puree, wild mushrooms and pesto. We had been told that this perhaps wasn’t their best dish, so we were intrigued as to why. The onion puree was sweet and tangy as was the pesto but the dumplings were a little bland, perhaps it was because I was expecting the usual more stodgy, heavy dumplings and these were light and crisp, they were filled but you couldn’t distinguish any flavours, I was rather disappointed.
For pudding we opted for the sachertorte a whole myriad of different chocolate goodness: squares of chocolate and apricot cake with a dark chocolate ganache, chocolate crystals and served with mahlab ice cream, salted caramel gel, apricot gel and aerated chocolate. They also brought out the apfelschalet, which was like an apple strudel with a layer of toasted almonds and the sweetest white peach ice cream, but for us it was the coconut rice pudding that was the winner. A dense, creamy rice pudding that was sweet but not sickly topped with pineapple and black cherry gel.
Focussing on fine dining the portion sizes were just right so that you could easily eat three courses without feeling as if you had just eaten your own body weight, although unusually there weren’t any side dishes available which I feel that the restaurant were missing out on by not having, that said the service was excellent, the atmosphere lovely and that Flanken dish, I could eat again and again and again.