The Black Garlic

Turkish food has been feeling the love like never before over the last few years, helped by a number of young bucks (Turks?) who are finally shifting things away from the ‘identikit mangals’ around Stoke Newington, Dalston and Green Lanes, which often look – and indeed, start to taste – all a bit samey.   

So when I catch wind of a couple of chaps doing something a bit different at a recent opening in Leyton, I peg it down there. Suleyman Kahraman and Sameer Shahzada are the chefs/owners, and have previously had stints between them with Giorgio Locatelli, Jason Atherton, Heston Blumenthal and Raymond Blanc: not your average Turkish kitchen team’s CV. 

The site is on the former Gym’s Kitchen, a ‘protein based restaurant’ geared towards dumbbell botherers – nothing much has changed inside, the interior not having shaken off the soulless ‘anti-restaurant’ design ethic of the previous incumbents (muscle bound characters still adorn the doors of the loos), so cash has clearly not been spaffed on the interior….yet. I rat-a-tat-tat several visits over a few days. Turns out they have some moves.

Böbrek Kavurma (lamb’s kidneys) arrive in their own cutesy iron skillet, and set things off at a cracking pace. Juicy, well seasoned kidneys (no honk, cleaned well), a flourish of red onions, a squeeze of lemon. Moppage and more moppage with flatbread, chasing round the last sticky slick of sauce.

Kuzu Kavurma is a beauty, tomatoes and onions cooked down into silken sweetness, chunks of lamb carrying the char of the grill, with rendered, wobbling nuggets of flavour packed fat amidst a muddle of Turkish peppers and spring onions. Mopped up with plenty of flatbread. A belter.

Karni Yarik is an artful interpretation of the classic oven baked stuffed aubergine dish, the ‘split belly’ of slowly cooked aubergine stuffed with minced meat, onions, and tomatoes – here, the mince is spewing out and around rather than neatly packed in, and other than needing a grind of salt to perk it up, is excellent.

Plating is considered, but not wanky. Yes, there’s some wooden board action going on, but this is forgiven when some of the dishes on these are served in their own cast-iron cookware, keeping everything at exocet heat until the last morsel. And what’s this? Chefs bringing the dishes from the kitchen to the tables? Lordy, this has never happened in the huddle of Turkish grills in N4.

A promising opening. BYO wine seals the deal. Grab a bottle from Yardarm five minutes away on Francis Road.

This Week

Bluebird Bar,

Elystan Street,

​Sheng High, Winemakers Deptford

The Laughing Heart's bar beneath the restaurant kicks off with five guest chef nights in a row, and started with Leo Carreira. A playful menu, a subterranean candlelit room, and Charlie Mellor's skilful wine picks: a cute combination. Sea trout crudo, crisp chard and beetroot; Raw Crevettes prawns with 'head juices' and daikon; Porto hot dog 2.0 (inspired by a version in Porto), is a fiendish number flattened in the toaster with Isle of Mull cheddar and a sneaky hit of chilli oil in the mix. Next up: Tom Anglesea (Head Chef of The Laughing Heart); Tim Spedding (ex-Clove Club); (ex-Chiltern Firehouse); William Gleave (last seen getting raves at P. Franco). A yuzu sake cocktail served as a blistering sharpener.

Dinner at the quietly stylish Elystan Street in Chelsea, owned by Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas. Ravioli of oxtail with smoked and roasted onion, followed by tagine of chicken with melted onions, spinach, green onions and preserved lemon. Freshly made strozzapreti pasta with wild garlic pesto – worthy of the best Italian joints in town. Great martinis, too.



Shengjian bao fried dumplings at Walthamstow Village Market, filled with chicken broth. Shanghai dumplings made by an ex-Yauatcha chef, Felix Tse. Superior street food, and very good for chasing hangovers back whence they came. They've been pitching up here every Saturday 10am-3pm. Walthamstow, finally, is slowly kicking into gear.


The kitchen has started firing at Winemakers Deptford, the new wine bar on Deptford High Street. Helping out in the background with these chaps has its perks, as it means I have a justifiable excuse to drop in and try more of the dishes  that Head Chef Rory Shannon (ex-Canton Arms) and Andrew Gray (Petersham Nurseries) have been cooking. Crab croquetas are a staple on the menu, oozing with a brown/white meat béchamel; Lincolnshire Poacher cheese soufflé is a darn beauty; fresh pappardelle (Andrew the pasta whizz) with wild garlic pesto; dry aged Angus beef rib with bone marrow (loads of wobbling marrow), excellent béarnaise, and chips. Wines are all imported by owner John Baum, and are worth the trip alone – the opening of the kitchen has added the final flourish. – @WinemakersDept





Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Pattes Loup,

Burgundy, France

Adam Pico is a third generation grower in Chablis, his grandfather having first planted vines in the 1940s. He managed to acquire small plots of vines and began farming them biodynamically with minimal intervention, and made with a natural yeast fermentation without any fining or filtering of the wines. His domaine ‘Pattes Loup’ has attracted many admirers for producing complex, thought provoking Chablis that is up there with the best in the region right now. Poured by the glass at The Laughing Heart’s new Bluebird bar beneath the restaurant. Leo Carreira was cooking for the night, the first of a guest chef series – sea trout crudo and Crevettes prawns with their head juices (flavour bomb) with daikon, were worthy foils for the wine.



Grand Indian Dining in Woodford

The Meghna Grill in South Woodford. Sunday. Some time in the 80s. A sprawling buffet, a pile of massive rustling onion bhajis. The eight-year-old me doesn’t know much about this kind of exotic scarfing, but he knows what he likes. Onion bhajis, yeah, those football sized (to me) fried things, are a right touch. Can I have another one, please?

Opened in 1972 by the Bangladesh High Commissioner, Mazir Uddin’s family run restaurant closed in 2013 when he retired, and a restaurant I grew up with was suddenly no more. The site was taken over by one of the most disastrous and doomed openings I can remember witnessing. Now what’s this in its place? A top Indian? Woodford? Go do one, mate. Not possible, not likely, it’ll never happen.

Read on...


An early visit to Lorne in the formerly depressing restaurant wasteland of Victoria (A. Wong was at the vanguard of the upturn a few years ago, a couple of doors away), reveals some smart cooking from chef and co-owner Peter Hall, and a razor sharp wine list by fellow owner Katie Exton. They bring some tasty pedigree with them, including The Square, Chez Bruce, The River Cafe, Brawn and Benu in San Francisco – the expectation is on them to be shaking some impressive moves from the kick off. Cuttlefish is deftly fried with a boldly seasoned semolina/cornflour crumb, alongside  a punchy romesco humming with the addition of a bisque sauce that speaks of simmered prawn heads and their friends. Bream with baby gem, puntarelle and monk's beard comes in a sonorous, beautifully balanced dashi broth, the fish having had a quick brine before cooking: cleansing, ascetic, echoes of Japan. A dessert dodger (me) managed to enjoy a homely Yorkshire curd tart with 'builder's tea ice cream' which does indeed spookily taste like just like builder's tea...I later find out that Yorkshire Tea bags play a leading role.

Grower Champagne Veuve Fourny 1er Cru as the house fizz at £9.50 sets the tone, and when you see Produttori del Barbaresco and Kumeu River by the glass on the first page, you know you'll be in safe hands. Fleur de Thénac Rouge is one of the best value reds in town.

Lorne is wedged between Turkish restaurant Kazan and Znips hair salon (I missed it walking past four times), but there's enough going on here to pull me back again soon – and in this fervid London restaurant opening climate, that's becoming something of a rarity.


A couple of plates at Stevie Parle's latest opening in Clerkenwell are compelling enough to plan another visit, pronto. Housed in a building of shared serviced offices run by (Fora prefer 'pro-working' to 'co-working'), this corner site on Central Street - the 'no-mans land' between The Barbican and Old Street - has the feel of a neighbourhood joint you may find tucked away off The Bowery, in New York.  Riffing on the dishes and flavours of Rome, the menu reads like a beauty: saltimbocca; chicken, pancetta and pistachio meatballs; rigatoni with veal pajata; tonarelli cacio e pepe. Ravioli of spinach and squash are ruddy good, a generous portion for £8, excellent lurid green pasta: the amount of butter they wallow in is reassuring. Pillowy bites of gnocchi alla Romana with brown butter and sage deserve a 'high five' and have 'order again' written all over their Parmesan and sage strewn pucks. Bombolotti ragù 'Marcella', inspired by cookery writer Marcella Hazan, who effectively 'blueprinted' the correct way to make a ragù bolognese, is also safe in the hands of this River Café alumnus. The open kitchen adds to the hubbub in the room which also serves as the entrance to the offices, plates of food being passed out for some kind of work 'do' or networking event going on the night I was there. The River Café begun life as the canteen for the architects next door –  not a bad precedent if the parallels begin to be drawn here. Next time, arrowing in on the saltimbocca...

Going Solo
Noble Rot, Issue N12

"Just for one please.” – How many times have I uttered this? A lot. I love it. I’m well up for this solo dining lark me...

A wine region and grape can be on the top table for years and then suddenly fall from grace. Wine writer Zeren Wilson charts the rise, fall… and rise again of the likes of Chardonnay and Merlot to find out why our tastes change.

Read on

Zeren Wilson enthuses about the evolution in dining and drinking options in his ‘hood – “We’ve never had so many food writers traipsing out of Central line stations...”

Read on

No words, just names and links. A few places we're bouncing in
and out of... New openings, old school faves, our current hit-list

Zeren Wilson

— It started with venison medallions and a Barossa Valley Shiraz: the dish that sent me down the path of food and wine while living in Sydney. A career change from advertising began by joining Oddbins in 2003, then to independent merchant The Winery (specialising in German Riesling, Burgundy, Piemonte, California), moving to selling wine to London restaurants, and a stint as sommelier at Zucca in Bermondsey — the writing kicked in after all of this. I’ve written for various publications including The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Christie’s Magazine, The London Magazine, Noble Rot, Completely London, Caterer, and Ocado magazine. I consult on wine lists for restaurants, recent projects including Smoking Goat, Kiln, Coombeshead Farm, Bibo, Arabica Bar and Kitchen, Frontline Club, Cây Tre and Martello Hall.