Machneyehuda – beautiful food in Jerusalem

Beit Yaakov Street 10, Jerusalem

A couple of months ago, I discovered The Palomar in Soho, in my opinion the best restaurant I’ve eaten at in London. So when I heard that its original counterpart is in Jerusalem, I knew we would definitely be paying it a visit!

My trip to Israel was incredible for so many reasons. The immense history of a relatively young nation, the fascinating desert landscapes, the hipster quarters of Tel Aviv, the floating qualities of the Dead Sea… I could go on for hours. Our two days in Jerusalem were impressive beyond measure, and whilst most of it can be attributed to the Old City, part of it was definitely due to Machneyehuda.

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Looking out over the Old City from the Mount of Olives

Located on a small street just behind the Machneyehuda market, we walked past the restaurant a few times before going in (I really should have studied more Hebrew before this trip!). I thanked my stars I had made a reservation – the place was absolutely buzzing.

What first struck me was how much larger it is than The Palomar. Although there were only about 10 seats at the bar (of which we were lucky enough to have two), there were far more tables, as well as another floor with more. The second thing was that it was hipster, but hipster done well – the latter of which is rare in London nowadays!

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I recognised a couple of items on the menu, but most were new to me. I absolutely had to order the polenta, as it was the highlight of both my trips to The Palomar, and then we also chose the shakshukit and the shrimp with okra.

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We had agreed in advance that this would be our ‘dignity night’ on the trip, which meant we put on some makeup and changed out of our usual travelling gear! To go along with this, we also decided to indulge in a glass of wine – the Israeli Sauvignon Blanc from the Sea of Galilee. I don’t know much about wine, as most of you know, but this was just wonderful, and a generous glass to boot.

I knew the polenta would be amazing, and it certainly lived up to those expectations. The creaminess of it is unsurpassed, and it’s no wonder it was recently voted one of the best comforting dishes in London by Time Out!

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The shrimp and okra was fantastic as well, with simple flavours and an amazing lemony sauce, along with creamily roasted whole garlic cloves.

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I was a little disappointed with the shakshukit at first, as it tasted a lot like… Tex Mex? But after a few bites, the different flavours started shining through, and as I crunched on pine nuts, I was utterly sold.

I’ve experienced good service, bad service, friendly service, and downright rude waiters. Machneyehuda was hands down the best service I’ve had in a very long time, mainly due to its subtlety. Our water glasses remained full all evening, and we never noticed when they were being refilled. The juices from our dishes meant we used a lot of napkins, and these were constantly magically replaced too! The two ladies behind the bar smiled, laughed, and talked to us, but never intruded upon our conversation. When they tried to take away our almost empty plate, I kindly asked them not to as I wasn’t quite done, upon which I received no judgmental looks, but rather an extra few pieces of bread to soak up the juices. I could have kissed her.

Impeccable attentation to detail

Impeccable attentation to detail

We only ordered three dishes and decided to forgo dessert, but nonetheless received a little tasting portion of the creamy cheesecake, which absolutely blew my mind. I love how this restaurant, as well as its London counterpart, is happy to give you a peek at the dishes you haven’t ordered. It’s courtesy as well as very clever marketing, as I definitely want to order it next time!

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One spoonful each – just enough to leave us wanting more

The prices at Machneyehuda are just about equivalent to London, but as with The Palomar, I still think it’s a bargain considering the quality of the food. Perfect for our dignity night, in any case! And what I found with both restaurants is that it is possible to spend as much or as little as you like. We ended up with around £20 per head, as we weren’t that hungry (this included one glass of wine each). However, had we wanted to indulge, we could easily have ordered 2 more dishes, and perhaps another glass of wine – so it’s suitable for most budgets.

Dessert platter... unfortunately not for our table!

Dessert platter… unfortunately not for our table!

I will also remember Machneyehuda for our proudest Hebrew moment of the trip! We had learned that ‘sababa’ means ‘good’, or ‘awesome’, and when we used it to respond to the question of how our food tasted, we were confronted with an excited onslaught of Hebrew, which we unfortunately had to halt to explain that this was one of only about 8 words we knew!

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Read more about my trip to Israel here, including a review of the best hummus in the world!

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