Honey & Co has become an institution in London. Although it has moved from its original Fitzrovia location across the way to Bloomsbury, the restaurant’s communal spirit and homely atmosphere always drew a crowd. As co-founder Sarit says, “there’s a huge sense of community and family around the table,” especially in Middle Eastern cooking. It’s the epitome of family-style dining, with hands reaching for big plates of creamy hummus and cooling labaneh, a multitude of dishes passed around until they’re wiped clean.
Fresh, sun-drenched early mornings would mean full plates of shakshuka or breakfast sabich enjoyed on a table outside. At lunch you might find Jay Rayner, a Honey & Co regular, eating some mezze whilst talking to Sarit or Itamar, whose joyful presence elevates the restaurant from a place serving great food to a welcoming space that feels truly alive. We were so excited to find out more about their connection to food, how they host and the ordinary object that has a special significance in their home kitchen.
Did you always have a really strong connection with cooking and food, even when you were young?
Sarit: We were allowed to mess around in the kitchen from a young age. I remember rolling ginger cookies out, feeling the silky dough on your hands. I got really into baking at around 12 years old when my sister brought home a pastry book.
Itamar: My first food memory is quite early on – my brother and I had a little toaster oven that we would cook with. I’m not sure how we came out unscathed, but we were always throwing food in there.
What food did you grow up on?
S: I grew up in a British household in Israel so we ate classic British food – pies, meat and vegetables – going round to friends’ houses was very exciting for me.
I: I grew up in Jerusalem – the food was incredible and took influences from all over. My favourite thing was going into the cobbled streets of the old town for sesame and cinnamon falafel.
What’s a dish that you like to cook at home that helps you unwind and feels different to cooking at work?
S: As chefs we’ll often get home late to an empty fridge. But we will always have something in the fridge to throw a meal together – eggs and greens, most often. Green shakshuka is what we go to in these instances. It’s so easy and always comes out differently, based on what you put it. Cook down chard, wilted spinach, the tops of carrots or radishes, olive oil, dill, and simply cook some eggs on top.
Can you tell us a few traditions around hosting that feel particularly important to you now?
I: We like to keep things simple at home, especially as we’ll often be racing to get home before our guests arrive. Having a few things to serve straight away as people come through the door is always good – olives, radishes, bread or crackers and something to dip them in to accompany our drinks. We will put something in the oven as soon as we can, a good smell promising out guests pleasant things to come, while everyone relaxes. And tahini, always tahini.
You’ve both cooked in various kitchens and have cooked many different cuisines. Apart from it being part of your heritage, why do you love cooking Middle Eastern food so much? Why do you think it’s become so popular?
S: There’s a huge sense of community and family around the table, lots of mezze and sharing dishes makes things very convivial - you have to pass things around and you really get to know your dining companions as you go.
Who takes charge in the kitchen at home? Or is it quite equal?
I: I’d like to say that it’s equal but Sarit will tell you she does all the cooking!
S: I do a lot of cooking for photoshoots at home as well, so this often becomes our dinner. Itamar loves it when we test out new desserts.
Can you tell us about an ordinary object in the kitchen that has a special significance or story?
S: All our wooden ma’amoul moulds are very special. We’ve picked them from various markets over the years across the Middle East and each one has a different pattern. I also have little metal clippers to make unique patterns which are special – the amount of time it takes to sit down and mould each cookie is really significant and makes me think of those who did it for generations before us.
If you were inviting all your loved ones over for dinner, how would you host and what would you be cooking? Inside or outside? Plated up or family style?
We don’t have outdoor space so we would be inside, with all the windows open and our jungle house plants fooling us into feeling outside. We always prepare lots of plates of food to share, and on Sundays - our one day off when we have more time - we’ll go to the farmers market, taking our time to pick out delicious produce, and spend the afternoon baking bread or trying out a dish we’ve been wanting to cook for a while, all ready to serve for friends in the evening.
What’s a dish that reminds you of home?
S: Aubergine, pickles, egg in a pitta with lots of tahini. Such simple street food but so delicious.
Your favourite cuisine?
We love Japanese
Best song/album for a dinner party?
During lockdown we sent out different at home meals every week, each with a different theme and they’d come with a little game and a QR link to a playlist to listen to while you prepared and enjoyed the meal at home. Our most memorable was our ‘drifting down the Nile’ playlist for an Egyptian meal – it was one song that lasts for 59 mins and 11 seconds. Enta Omry by Umm Kulthum – the essence of Egypt in one bewitching song. Just turn down the lights, light up the shisha and drift into the evening.
Photographer: Patricia Niven