Loved for its warm climate, friendly locals, gorgeous landscapes and richly varied food culture, Sicily is a destination that sees hoards of vacationers all year round.
What do you do then, if you want to experience the country, but can’t actually visit there? Well, you get a ‘taste’ of the country, elsewhere. That’s where Zoom East steps in. You’ll find the restaurant tucked away beneath the Hyatt Place London East City Hotel, celebrating all things Sicilian.
Upon entering, we were struck by the contemporary, colourful eatery’s décor, which was brimming with art, light and flora, including fern-laden walls and table plants aplenty. The atmosphere was quintessentially Sicilian – laidback, familial, with all members of staff passionate about food with beaming smiles.
When seated at our table, we were recommended a bottle of the Allumea Organic Grillo Chardonay – a light white wine with a bouquet reminiscent of pineapple and lemon. Glasses filled, we were left to ponder the menu, which reflected the diversity and nuances of regional Sicilian cuisine – with influences of Arabia, Africa, Spain, France, and, of course, Italy.
As lovers of tapas-style meals, we were most excited about the deli dishes and small plates, which, our waiter informed us, Zoom East is known for. After great deliberation, we made our choices, and the deli dishes arrived; we chose the bread selection – soft focaccia, crunchy Grissini and carta di musica (a crisp-like cracker bread that is packed with flavour), confit artichoke – with olive oil, parsley and rosemary chilli marinade, agro dolce peppers – a sweet and sour mix of red, yellow and green peppers and nocellera del belice olives – marinated with chilli and garlic.
The winner was the artichoke, though you might think it an odd choice for a favourite dish – Zoom East had somehow made the humble vegetable zingy beyond comprehension and it tasted especially great on top of the warm focaccia, drizzled with extra chilli oil.
Before we had even polished off our deli dishes, our small plates arrived, consisting of arancini – carnaroli with saffron rice, peas and blue cheese, parmigiana – baked aubergine layered with tomato, basil and parmesan, and tuna carpaccio, which came with pickled celery, prickly pears, bergamot and a sesame dressing.
Our favourite, without a doubt, was the arancini – perfectly crispy on the outside, gooey and flavoursome on the inside with creamy rice and cheese.
The parmigiana dish was not far behind though – each layer of aubergine was expertly cooked, and well complemented by the ultra-fresh tomato and basil sauce.
Happily, our bellies were not yet full, as soon after polishing off the deli dishes and small plates, it was time to sample our mains. We ordered the mixed Mediterranean vegetables and the Onglett steak, which came with triple cooked fries. Whilst the dishes looked great, being beautifully arranged on the plate, we thought both just a little underwhelming.
The vegetables – roasted yellow and green courgettes and heritage carrots with Za’atar mixed herbs were very well seasoned, but on their own too few and in need of an accompaniment. If we had not had the deli items and small plates prior to that, we would have been left wanting more. The steak wasn’t far different; we would have liked a larger cut with a few more fries – which, we must say, were perfectly cooked, being both crisp and fluffy.
Our spirits were lifted once again by the dessert; we shared the flourless chocolate, almond and orange cake. It was almost mousse-like, melting in the mouth with smooth and delicate flavour, with the Sicilian orange cutting through the chocolate nicely.
If you’re looking for a chilled evening with a loved one, friend or family member, do visit Zoom East. They are experts in Sicilian hospitality, having created a warm atmosphere to sit and unwind.
Sample the tremendous small plates, and stay for the relaxing ambiance, away from the hustle and bustle of the City streets above.
45 Whitechapel Road E1 1DU