The Jew And The Carrot

Mishkin's Brings a Taste of Deli to London

By Sarah Kessler

  • Print
  • Share Share
Paul Winch-Furness

New York made “Seinfeld”; London got the reruns on late night cable TV. It’s a generalization worth risking that, outside of the Golders Green and Stamford Hill epicenters, Judaism on this side of the ocean doesn’t stake its cultural and culinary claim loudly. So it’s fun to sit down in Mishkin’s, Russel Norman’s “kind of Jewish deli with cocktails” spot which opened last December in Covent Garden, and feel the familiar so earnestly and stylishly played with: a little kitsch, without the shtick.

“To me, Jewish food is comfort food,” Norman told The Jewish Chronicle soon after the restaurant opened. “It was eating in some of the New York delis which weren’t obviously branded Jewish that made me think you could take that as a starting point but still have fun with it.”

Norman grew up in Hounslow, southwest London. He isn’t Jewish, but spent more than a decade taking notes in New York and Venice, and Mishkin’s is a paean to a New York deli crossed with a classic Formica London café. Except it’s so much…crisper.

The emphasis is on style rather than kosher. Slip in to a red banquet booth below a white pressed tin ceiling; lean your arm casually against the bright green tiles, while the louchely handsome wait staff drawl “service!” at orders up; roll an eye over the menu set out in classic typewriter font (sandwiches/meatballs/all day brunch/all day supper) and order a ‘refreshment’ from the cocktail list: namely gin, gin and more gin. Those comfort classics are all there - bagels with the “house schmear,” chicken matzo ball soup, pickled herring, chopped chicken liver, a pleasingly Seussian nod to tradition with the whitefish (and spinach) knish and even a cholent boldly far from home. Last weekend they kept a table of older Jewish gents lunching for several hours, (according to our waitress) in defiance of their wives (according to the gents).

That being said, “Mishkin’s is not a kosher restaurant.” The website prepares you, and Norman’s publicist reiterated this in worried tones over the phone. Items like duck hash and fried egg served with a mini boat of “liquor” (gravy, in the old east London pie ‘n’ mash vernacular) or lamb and pistachio meatballs are well-executed and extremely filling, but more gourmet flair than grandma’s. The Reuben sandwich may be a classic (77 sold between 11am and 4pm on January 18th, according to Twitter but it’s not a kosher one. And the ‘All pork Big Apple dog,’ fifth item down on the menu, is unabashed.

“‘It’s terrible,’ the Jewish diners tell us,” said our waitress, herself the only Jewish member of staff, as she brought a jug of tap water to the table unasked (very New York diner, very un-English). “How can you have that on the menu?” But do they order it?

“Absolutely.”

Norman has said that his starting point is a gap in the market — “I’m looking for somewhere to eat and socialize that doesn’t exist in London, so perhaps I need to be the one that creates it.”

With historian Simon Schama recently waxing loxical about Cohen’s, “that temple of smoked salmon and pickled cucumbers” and other “relics of the lost innocence of half a century ago” and the 2010 closure of Bloom’s, an iconic kosher establishment it does seem like good timing.

In fact, the first time my brother and I tried to eat at Mishkin’s, I didn’t make a reservation and we couldn’t get a seat. But here I go, doing exactly what I was worried I’d do, that thing which apparently every other diner does when they eat there: making it all about me.

“Oh yes — that’s not how my mother does it,” said another waitress, in a pretty floral dress and gentle tattoos along her arm and down to her fingers, parroting the clientele with a smile. “I say, you get your mother down here, we’ll put her in the kitchen.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mishkins, London Deli

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.