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November 28, 2023

Mayfair’s Jeru shows how upmarket Middle Eastern cooking is done

Jeru is warming, unstuffy, and takes a gamble with a sweeping, pan-Mediterranean menu which pays off

By Jack Croxford-Scott

Jeru promises ‘Fire. Stone. Soul.’ Infuriating sentence structures aside, it is worth visiting. Jeru masterfully blends light but flavourful mezze with bold and earthy meat-cuts. It first launched over Christmas 2021 and is headed up by Chef Roy Ner, formerly of Sydney stalwart Nour.

Design & Interiors

Jeru fronts onto Berkeley Street with a narrow, unassuming frontage easily mistaken for a neighbourhood cafe or wine bar.

Indeed, up front is a bakery by day and bar by night. At lunch, the St James’s daytime crowd – also known as fund managers – can drop in here for stone-baked pies and wraps, or head past the bakery for a sit-down lunch. 

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Seemingly deploying Riad-esque deception, Jeru opens into a three-storey expanse, complete with a tree-lined roof garden and basement. 

[See also: Caviar Kaspia’s starry New York outpost lives up to the hype]

At this threshold there was apparently once an internal door, which presumably proved to be so deceptive to the point of commercial self-harm.

An open kitchen flanks much of the port-side of the restaurant proper. The chefs look across to travertine marble-esque walls and rounded, gently backlit archways inlaid with russet wood shelves which host nondescript but tasteful ornaments.

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Unexpected, but appreciated, are the cubist paintings – apparently from Chef Ner’s own collection – which are scattered throughout. They are a show of both character and confidence, and put paid to any suspicion of an identity crisis. Jeru is unmistakably Mediterranean but knows full well that it’s an upmarket Mayfair eatery and has some fun with it. 

Food & Drink

The eclectic blend of cuisines find common ground on the menu at Jeru

The promise of a ‘pan-Mediterranean celebration’ is worrying from the get-go. What wanton bastardisation of a dozen-plus cuisines could this be concealing? Alas, there was little to fear. 

Make no mistake, there is all sorts going on here. Levantine tatbila, batata harra and hummus sit alongside greco-style grilled octopus, feta and roe-based salsas. Far western Med staples, including aioli and white anchovies, feature too.

But, it works. The unfathomably eclectic cuisines at play here find common ground like all good peacemakers: breaking bread and drowning it in oil. 

A word on the former: the potato bread from the bakery upfront is a must. It is served with a truffled honey sauce – potent but rather tasty – and a chickpea miso butter. 

It’s real destiny, however, is to be lathered with the black chickpea hummus, competently topped by British foraged mushrooms and a herb tatbila.

[See also: From Monaco to Manhattan: Royal-approved Rampoldi brings old-fashioned glamour to New York City]

And as if pan-Med wasn’t ambitious enough, much of the menu has a farmy, almost nose-to-tail aspect to it. Indeed, a roasted black cod fillet was presented along with the unmistakable, reassuring presence of roasted beef shanks. The slight demurral on our waiter’s face forewarned of a decision. 

‘Would sirs prefer their bone marrow mixed into the herb vinaigrette or left to the side?’ We restrained our incredulity at this plainly silly question and chalked it up to his presumably many run-ins with the squeamish and sensitive Mayfair crowd. 

Marrow now suitably mixed and lubricating the way to gout-induced contentedness, attention turned to the side dishes. 

The standout was grilled hispi cabbage. Here, horizontal cuts along the leaf are filled with a fermented and spiced shitake mushroom salsa. We didn’t bet on the humble cabbage contributing so much to our evening but it did, and you must order it. 

Less impressive was the charcoal swordfish, which was dry and underpowered, despite the best efforts of smoked sumac and chilli. A roasted Scottish salmon fillet was a peculiar and unnecessary addition, albeit perfectly cooked and well accompanied by a crab and caviar sauce. 

The meal ended with the house baklava cake. ‘Very famous’, our waiter nodded assuringly. Is it? Whatever its cache, it was somewhat lost on us, not least because we had decimated much of the menu by that point. 

The Service

Mayfair restaurants often can’t help themselves. They feel compelled to match prices with formality, oft-manifested as overly dressed staff who regurgitate semi-rehearsed scripts. It plagues their team with a straightjacketed anxiety which means awkward and stuffy service.

[See also: Mayfair’s newest Italian restaurant will leave diners purring]

Jeru makes no such mistake. Service is competent, timely and, most mercifully, human. In no small way thanks to the team, the atmosphere at Jeru is relaxing, warm, and fun. 

Worth knowing

Book midweek and you’ll be well looked after in Jeru’s main dining space. Drop by on weekends to bag a table at Layla, their underground bar for a live DJ and a lighter, mezze-heavy menu.

The Verdict

An ambitious but thoughtful menu pulled off effortlessly with first-rate service in a warm, homely space. Price wise, you’re nearing tasting-menu territory. That said, we’d much prefer another evening at Jeru.

www.jeru.co.uk

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