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A la Colthard/ Reubens

They say the indicator of a good Chinese restaurant is the number of Chinese there. Reubens is the only kosher restaurant in the West End and there were a goodly number of  Jewish people in yarmulkas eating there. This might because they cannot eat anywhere else but nonetheless I felt assured.

I had invited an old friend who is a heavy hitter in the advertising world for an early celebration of his birthday and suggested we were joined by one of his colleague directors, an engaging and rather dishy Australian who assisted me in the trip there last Xmas. Not Jewish himself he is more than partial to salt beef.

Reubens is midway up Baker St. The ground floor is the deli/takeaway section, the basement the restaurant.

I remember going to Blooms in Whitechapel where the salt beef was first rate. There the waiters owned the tables and bought the food off the restaurant. It was also noted for a lack of civility that bordered on rudeness but this was part of the experience.

Certainly on arrival at Reubens they did not pass the Colthard warm greeting test. No one offered to take my coat nor small trolley suitcase as I had travelled up. I was not so much ushered to as directed downstairs and installed myself.

My old friend is a lover of claret and I ordered a Baron Rothschild Mouton. The problem is that a wine like this should be decanted in advance. It was good but could have been better as one of my reports at my all girl public school once read !!!

In ordering we stuck to the well known faves: chicken soup, described on the menu as the Jewish penicillin, and salt beef.

The soups with dumplings was quite delicious.

In particular  you could tell it was not made in some vast vat sometime ago as it had a freshness quality as well as rich stock of chicken.

A copious plate of salt beef then arrived. The problem with salt beef is by its very nature it induces thirst.  The general view is that the Brass Rail in Selfridges has the best salt beef in London and Katz’s on the Lower East Side of New York the best in the world

We had a refreshing coleslaw and one latke to share, the Jewish form of rosti potato.

There was still room for an apfelstrudel served with ice cream. A kosher restaurant cannot mix milk and meat so the ice cream was made with some soya substitute but lacked creaminess.

The bill for three came to £220, a lot but you do not have to order the expensive wine. I would say £50 per head would be the norm.

Afterwards what might have been the owner, a raven-haired middle aged woman, came over. I said the irony was our Australian friend was the biggest aficionado. She said it happens all the time that someone who clearly did not grow up in the culture of Jewish gastronomy and Friday night Shabbos meals enjoys the cuisine most of all.

Daphne Colthard
About Daphne Colthard

After graduating at RADA but finding no roles Daphne went into magazine journalism with Good Housekeeping. Widely recognised as one of the country's leading restaurant and hotel reviewers, particularly by herself, Daphne is the author of "Bedded and Breakfasted", a light hearted chick novel and Grand Hotels DC: the Daffers Dictionary. Daphne lives in West London and is married to an investment banker Oliver. They have 2 boys Humphrey and Tarquin. More Posts