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.