New Moon Cafe, Gloucester Road: Review

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Image sourced from the New Moon Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/newmooncafetapasbar)

Image sourced from the New Moon Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/newmooncafetapasbar)

 

Says reviewer Louis Hessey-Antell, “Food and drink can save the world. It probably won’t, but I’m willing to give it the old college try.” Find more of Louis’ reviews at simplelampoon.com.

 

The interior of the New Moon, with its vibrant art and acoustic guitars, sings Mediterranean. If you venture even further, and into the securely sheltered garden, you feel genuinely transported.

There’s live music on some nights but even without, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. The standard menu is appropriately centred on tapas, but there is also a second one that suggests substantial gumption: a different country’s cuisine every fortnight. My girlfriend and I sit down with the current Cypriot menu in front of us. The owner/chef is a personable Bulgarian named Takvor Terlemezyan (mercifully shortened to TK) and even though it must be a tall order to handle front of house as well, it’s pleasant from a punter’s point of view to have the man who cooked the food also bringing it over. His dishes read like they should, too; classics that signal a search for authenticity.

I see a plate of perfect looking calamari pass by but, in the interest of being a good reviewer, I choose some small plates from the perennial menu, followed by a main from the fortnightly. Crab cakes are the first thing I try. It must have taken some practice to have these little fellows survive the anger of the fryer; the filling is as light as they come, and the coating is atom-thin. After these have swiftly melted on the tongue, we dig toast into quenelles of baba ganoush. Aptly smoky, with added texture from crushed walnuts, it’s a fine way for an aubergine to go.

The cooking so far is good, but I want to see how well this place sources its ingredients.With this in mind, out comes the platter of salami, chorizo and Spanish ham. The meat is moist from patterns of fat, and it was good to see TK at the bar carving the ham from a whole cured pork leg. Each slice is devoured with enthusiasm, and we’re already feeling half ­full.

The Kleftiko is gently recommended by the proprietor, but my partner didn’t need any persuading; she decided on the dish as soon as she saw ‘five hours’ and ‘lamb shank’ in the same sentence. I go for the whole roast sea bream, feeling the moussaka or keftedes would be going slightly easy on the kitchen. Meanwhile, the table next to ours are being served glasses of ouzo to go accompany their meze platter; this attention to detail is charming. TK pre­warned us earlier that he wouldn’t send out the shanks until they could be eaten with a spoon, so we have some time to let our starters sit.

My fish arrives, surrounded by red wine­-glazed potatoes and a green salad. The flesh flakes from the bone in large chunks, and the spuds add body and sweetness to the mouthfuls. There is a hefty amount of seasoning on the skin which, while guaranteeing crispness, may push some palates a little too far, but I was generally okay with it. The Kleftiko is similarly well executed. The meat shreds with a stroke of the fork, soaks up the winy gravy, and eats effortlessly. The last bites on our plates fill us to capacity, save for a final swig of beer, and I give a thumbs up to TK as he approaches to clear our table.

We settle up, and I reflect on this daring, ever­-changing, globe-­trotting menu. At first glance, it seems unfathomably brave and possibly crazy to me, but is it really? If an experienced chef knows how to handle meat; when to remove fish from the heat, and how to employ educated guesses when interpreting unfamiliar recipes, then surely, with a bit of thoughtful experimentation, it can be done. Aside from that, it may help that TK is from Bulgaria, a country that experiences most of the world’s climates at some point every year.

Food for two, plus drinks and service, £55.

 

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