Early last year, Eyal Shani brought his Miznon restaurant group to the UK. It specialises in extravagantly filled pita breads and promises to “bring the flavours of the Mediterranean to London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.”
Miznon was born in Tel Aviv in 2011, and is now an international chain.
There are restaurants in Soho, Paris, Vienna, Ibiza, and a handful outside Europe, from New York to Melbourne. Shani’s playful take on street food from Tel Aviv – a Mediterranean city of predominantly Levantine cooking – is fun and comforting; there is no pretence, but plenty of accessibility.
What moved me to visit immediately was the menu. Shani has relaxed his lingo a little since, but it is still a list of dishes written in coloured Comic Sans font, where his famous whole roast cauliflower is described as having “inner parts”, and upon which tomatoes are said to have “ovaries”.
Much of Miznon, some might say, is deeply and unashamedly ridiculous. When I first strolled in, there was an empty cardboard box on the floor bearing the name “Craig”. Rodriguez’s I Wonder was blasting from speakers above the hot kitchen.
Today, the balagan, a Hebrew word that loosely translates as “organised chaos”, remains. Every day, staff purposefully place a single tomato on each table. There might be other vegetables hanging from strings near the front door, a cauliflower by the window.
Shani introduced the place with a story about his secret pita breads: “With each of our pita we are dividing the world into two hemispheres: tahini and sour cream. Half of the creatures that we eat believe in sour cream, the other half in tahini. We are adding our fresh field vegetables and we are getting a new taste in the world: the Mediterranean…”
One section of the menu was entitled, “Our best drugs”. Dishes were painted as, “A plate of four spicy maza that will swirl your mind”, while fruit, diners were told, would be “slaughtered in front of their eyes”. I was told that if I ordered a whole broccoli tree it would “drip on my shoes”.
All of this would be stupid were the food not excellent. It really is. From the classic falafel-filled pita breads to the more outlandish – occasionally there are pita breads filled with bolognese, cottage pie, or fish and chips – each is nothing short of delicious, and worth the £12 or so by a distance.
Now a new brunch menu is launching (I don’t believe in brunch, so won’t bother) and further expansion is planned. In the meantime, here is Shani’s recipe for a “one-minute steak” pita. Definitely one for a Saturday afternoon now the Premier League’s back.
One-minute steak pita
For the steak:
130g steak, sliced 1-2mm in thickness and laid out on parchment paper
Oil (your preference, I like using good-quality vegetable oil)
Salt and pepper
For the pita:
1 pita bread – the best you can find/afford
2 thin tomato slices
3 thin pickle slices, cut vertically
1 tsp spicy green peppers
15g sliced red onion
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp tomato salsa
Grease your pan (or plancha, if you have one) with oil and put on a medium-high heat. Season the steak with some more oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and put into the pan.
When a nice sear is formed on the bottom of the steak and it is about 80%-90% cooked, it’s time to flip it over. Immediately take off the grill and put on a chopping board to rest.
Cut off the top of the pita and spread tahini inside the pita on both sides. Add tomato salsa and the spicy green peppers.
Place the three slices of pickles and two slices of tomato flat on one side of the pita.
Using tongs, place the meat slices delicately into the pita, so that in every bite there will be a bit of meat.
Finish with tahini.