The cast-iron pan brimming with green and gold sheds stark contrast to London’s gray and drizzle peering in from the long front windows of Delamina East, a cozy and bright Israeli brunch spot in the city’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The gently poached eggs of my shakshuka spill yolk luxuriously into the mess of greens and herbs below, sunshine dripping from my fork.
That’s the point, of course. Walls minty and white wrap tables and floor of wood pale and worn from use. Single bulbs dangle from cords swooped across the ceiling. Pillows on benches, mismatched chairs and plants hanging and looping all conspire to create a casual intimacy. To create the perfect foil for the riot of flavors and colors that crowd each table.
It’s one of two London restaurants run by sculptor Limor Chen and her husband, Amir, outposts of the sort of blending of flavors and inspirations that defines so much of Israeli cuisine. “It’s the way I cook at home. It’s Israeli food, which is a fusion of all the people who came there,” says Chen. “That’s the beauty of Israeli food. People come from all over and they bring their traditions and they all combine. So you have so much creativity.”
It’s creativity that is gloriously evident as I sample my way through the menu. Crumbles of briny soft feta cheese with honey, tahini and sumac. Creamy labneh dusted with herbal za’atar. Charred cauliflower topped with lemon zest, crème fraîche and pomegranate molasses. A salad of seared broccoli, avocado, chickpeas and quinoa all doused with a lemon-Urfa chili dressing.
But it’s the shakshuka that most captivates me. Better-known versions are a simple skillet stew of spiced tomatoes into which eggs are cracked and cooked just until the whites set, all of it sopped up with flatbread. This is Chen’s green iteration, an appealing, barely wilted tangle of spinach, dill, peas and leeks, all married by the rich eggs and sharp feta.
The result is green not merely in color but also in taste. Wonderfully so. It’s warm and light, yet utterly satisfying with pops of cumin and Aleppo pepper. The consistency is tender and juicy but not wet. Perfect for mopping with pita bread. And to brighten that drab day even more, Chen was happy to share her recipe.