It would have been easy to miss Miznon‘s opening in Soho even for a keen follower of restaurants, because it’s an international chain run by the Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani that serves stuffed pitas and sides such as whole roast cauliflower and lima bean stew. Even if Miznon had pricked your attention, you might then think twice, because the menu – in green and red ink and comic sans font – is deeply confusing and, worse, dares to feature jokes. The temerity! There is no place on a modern British menu for anything resembling humor or personality. Oh no, sir. Here in Blighty we expect a loftily presented list of options with at most a short, snooze-some history of the owner, and giving nothing away from the 24/7 emotional-carnage bear pit with bread baskets that is “hospitality”.
Then Miznon pitches up on Broadwick Street after a successful run in Tel Aviv, Paris, Vienna, Singapore, Melbourne and New York. It is noisy, staffed by what seems like a cast of thousands, set in a charmingly unfussy room and offers high-quality, Tel Aviv-influenced street food. The menu feels like sleep deprivation, with in-jokes and a Benny Hill monologue fed into free translation software and shifted back and forth several times from Hebrew to French to English.
Let us enjoy Miznon on the subject of pita: “Each of our pitas is getting her birthmark, and it is different from the other (it’s about recreation, not assembling), each of them is creating a precise address, and it is always you . Just the divine pleasure that is coming out of it is the same.” And what shall I have in this flatbread? Thick, juicy lamb kebab? Crystal shrimps with sour cream and “tomato’s ovaries”? How about falafel with Guinness “black blood”, a roasted cauliflower’s “inner parts” or the record scratch moment that is “cottage pie”.
The trick here is to keep your nerve, set aside all British fears of wackiness and let the chaos envelop you, because the food is extraordinarily good. It is repeat-customer, “how are they doing this?”-level good. The, cough, “Deep Satisfaction” pita is stuffed with long-cooked, rich beef brisket shredded and mixed with melted cheddar and served with a crisp, pickled gherkin and pickled green chili. This pita does exactly what it promises, rather salaciously, on the menu. Do not order this to share, though. It is a meaty, cheesy, slobbering beast that will erupt down your shirt. This is food for snaffling away by oneself.
Miznon’s “run-over” potato, meanwhile, has dogged my dreams for weeks. The spud is baked until its skin is the zenith of oily, salty crispness, then heaped with obscene amounts of butter and cream, before being placed between two sheets of greaseproof paper and squashed flat, leaving a sticky, creamy carpet of fluffy mash and shredded jacket, which you then unwrap. Actual carbohydrate heaven.
At this point in my Miznon journey, it dawned on me that this isn’t a forgettable, shabby-chic spin on “street food”, but instead something engineered for greatness. Shani’s take on delicious, on-the-hop sustenance is brimful of largesse, heat, salt, cream and grease. A glorious puddle of oily, silky hummus is topped with soft chickpeas and tomato, and comes with spongy bread for mopping; if you like, you can have lamb ragu as an extra topping. A whole head of cauliflower, charred at the edges and stuffed with melted butter, is no longer one of my five a day, because such decadence robs it of any health value, but, hey.
Miznon is the sort of place where you should treat your first visit as a trial run. Accept help from the servers, and let them take the strain of ordering. They are delightful, upbeat and sympathetic when you see “whole roasted broccoli tree dripping on your shoes” and mystery sides such as “golden meat” on the menu.
Having fully caught Miznon’s gist, I will return to try the spaghetti bolognese pitta, possibly with a side of roast beetroot carpaccio and horseradish. Or perhaps the “Intimate” pita, which is a Tel Aviv spin on beef stew with root veg. The “all-day English breakfast” pita with chopped minute steak, lima beans and spicy tomato sauce will drive full-English purists half daft, but then nothing about Miznon is wholly serious or gives a stuff about rules; all they care about is that you bumble back out of the door completely sated and with your top trouser button loosened.
Pudding was a huge portion of wobbly, very sweet malabi – a sort of Middle Eastern panna cotta – drowning in rosehip syrup. The only other sweet option is “sugar glazed banana steaks with dolce [sic] de leche, whipping cream and broken butter cookies”. I’m bringing the Dent clan here over Christmas, when I’m tired of recycling turkey. As restaurant recommendations go, that is really as good as it gets.
Miznon 8 Broadwick Street, London W1 (no phone). Open all week, noon-11pm (10pm Sun). From about £20 a head, plus drinks and service.