To read about Ceru’s new PERMANENT restaurant, click here.
Ceru, a company of pop-up levantine restaurants that quite literally pop up in various London locations before moving on and popping up at the next – like a culinary game of Whack-A-Mole. I’ve read and heard many a good thing about Ceru’s pop-ups, but being a frail, elderly man in his 20’s who also prefers the warmer confines of an indoor restaurant (it’s better for my knees), they’ve quite often slipped my weakening mind. Luckily I took my medication this week, and after planning to go on a nice stroll around Tower Hill and Somerset House (as us elderly folk do), I remembered that Ceru currently have a pop-up at the “London Riviera”, adjacent to the southern bank of Tower bridge. This pop up will only be around until the end of October 2015, before they move on elsewhere, so check their website in case you head there and encounter an empty shack!
Note: All the meat here is halal.
Ceru’s riviera menu instantly grapples your attention with an assortment of wraps, salads, grilled dishes, desserts and drinks that all sound incredibly interesting. My eyes were instantly drawn to the lamb and pistachio kofte. Lamb? Pistachio? Kofte? It sounded like a mad scientist at Ambala had tried to fuse a kebab to a rasmalai. Whatever the circumstances of its creation, Ceru’s version of this traditional Iranian combination – comprised of two, fairly large pieces of kofte on a bed of salad – was nothing short of fantastic. The kofte were soft, tender, and full of mildly spiced flavour, whilst the pistachio pieces embedded within the kofte provided a contrasting, nutty texture that kept the palate guessing. The accompanying salad was laced in a light dressing that provided a mild tang, and together with the fresh, juicy, and soft cherry tomatoes, provided a clean, guilt-free addition to the kofte.
Steak opted for a lamb shawarma wrap, which consisted of soft, moist, high quality lamb “shawarma”, derived from Ceru’s signature slow cooked lamb shoulder, with mint sauce and salad, wrapped in a Lebanese flatbread. The flatbread was of a good quality, with a soft yet firm texture, and whist the lamb itself didn’t contain an overwhelming amount of flavour, the mint sauce it was smothered in did well to deliver a strong punch. This was mainly down to the yoghurt component of the sauce, which had a great deal of delicious, dairy depth, and complemented the lamb and the crunchy texture of the salad well.
I also tried my hand at a box of charcoal-grilled chicken skewers, which consisted of good quality chicken. However, the chicken cubes were slightly dry and bland, with the presence of only a mild hint of lemon. Ultimately, the chicken was overwhelmingly overpowered by the essence of the charcoal grill, and was salvaged only by the accompanying garlic and chilli sauces. We also ordered Ceru’s spiced “roast potatoes”, which, despite their name, actually came straight out of the chip fryer. As a result, they had a crispy fried texture, as opposed to the slightly softer, cleaner, roasted texture I was expecting (and which probably would have suited the potatoes a little more). They were enjoyable nonetheless however, with a mildly spiced flavour, a salty touch from the sprinkled sea salt, and a pleasant textural contrast from a handful of diced spring onions.
Next came dessert, for which Ceru offer two different vanilla-based ice cream options -“vanilla poached berries” or “the flavours of baklava”. Naturally we chose the latter, which sounded far more interesting than the rather vanilla vanilla-poached berries. The “flavours of baklava” consisted of two scoops of thick, high quality vanilla ice cream, coated in a burnt caramel syrup and littered with pieces of roasted nut brittle. The ice cream possessed a moderate vanilla essence, which fused with and was dominated by the rich sweetness of the burnt caramel syrup. Meanwhile, the roasted nut brittle pieces were wonderfully crunchy and firm, yet as easily broken as the heart of a One Direction fan. Each piece delivered a strong sweetness, and a rich, deep, roasted essence, as well as a stark textural contrast to the softness of the ice cream. A truly splendid creation, and one of the items on the London Riviera menu that you simply have to try without question, along with the lamb and pistachio kofte.
Alongside our meal, we had a go at both the homemade “melonade” and lemonade. Both were light and refreshing, with no overwhelming sense of sweetness. It’s almost as if they detected the scent of “Dentist” on me and rapidly filtered out the sugar. Instead, the melonade possessed a moderate flavour of watermelon with a pleasant, mild aftertaste, whilst the lemonade was more of a cloudy lemonade and also possessed a moderate flavour.
Staff are very friendly and run the riviera pop-up like an efficient, well-oiled machine. They even quoted us with times and stated that our lamb shawarma wrap and pistachio kofte would take “4 minutes and 7 minutes” respectively. You couldn’t get more precision from a microwave.
Value for Money: 4/5
The lamb kofte came in at £7.50, whilst the skewered chicken cost £7, the wrap £6, the potatoes £3.50, the ice cream £4.50, and both drinks came in at £2.50 each. All the other items on Ceru’s menu are similarly priced. For a quick, light lunch or dinner right on the riverfront, surrounded by attractive sights such as Tower Bridge (and potentially less attractive sights should London’s sugar puff monster (Boris Johnson) walk by to get to City Hall), Ceru’s food is rather well-priced, and rather filling too.
Ceru have certainly been taking the Tower Bridge riverfront by storm, and with a uniquely varied and interesting menu, it’s easy to see why. With the end of the British summer looming, there will no doubt be a drop from our scorching, hyperthermia-inducing temperatures of 21 degrees celsius, as Brits all across London stop wearing sunglasses and start wearing a permanent scowl whilst carrying an umbrella. Before this inevitable end occurs, it’s worth taking a trip down to City Hall for a cheerful helping of Levantine cuisine. Whilst the “London Riviera” itself, (a collection of wooden stalls surrounded by beach-themed furniture), is about as exotic as a tin of tomato soup, Ceru certainly helps to add a dash of Mediterranean flair to the otherwise woefully-British attempt at recreating the “French riviera”.
Location: Varies. (See Website). Review based on pop-up restaurant adjacent to city hall from June 2015 – October 2015.
Telephone: 0203 195 3001