The story of modern Green Lanes is a story of immigration. From its source in Newington Green to where it spills out across Palmers Green and Winchmore Hill, this otherwise unremarkable A-road has been shaped into a thriving and diverse hub for the Cypriot (both Greek and Turkish), Kurdish, Bulgarian, Polish and Albanian populations of London. Consequently its story is also a story of food. As the Lanes wends its way through North London, the air becomes thick with charcoal smoke from the mangal grills, and doesn’t clear until Turnpike Lane. These days the Lanes are dominated by the ocakbasi — grilled meat restaurants set up by the second wave of mainland Turkish and Kurdish immigrants in the 70s and 80s — but glimpses of Green Lanes’s Cypriot past, and an even more diverse future, can be found amongst the other dishes offered on this half mile stretch.Read More
11 Great Places to Eat on Green Lanes
Where to find the finest pide, lahmacun and gözleme on this thrilling stretch of road in north London
Green Lanes’ hidden gem. Cyprus House is located away from the bustle of the main road on the ground floor of a Turkish-Cypriot community centre that could easily be mistaken for a residential house. From Tuesday to Thursday it is only open for lunch, serving home cooked Cypriot meals — caul-fat encased şeftali kebabs made from minced lamb and offal, souvlaki, and molohiya, the mucilaginous bitter leaf that offers a taste of home for nostalgic palates. On Friday and Saturday mezze is £20 per person, which encompasses an almost endless but impeccable, rhythmic parade of cold starters, seafood, vegetables, fish and meat. The highlight? A whole lamb’s head with the flesh and fat judiciously pulled from the bone, served with a globe of brain and soft tongue meat. Booking is very much advisable.
The closest thing Green Lanes has to an institution, this grocers-cum-butchers-cum- bakery-cum-patisserie has been serving the Turkish-Cypriot population since 1981. One of a smattering of shops left which are still decidedly Cypriot rather than mainland Turkish or Kurdish, the diverse clientele and staff still includes all the communities of Harringay by virtue of being the best. All the usual amenities of a supermarket can found here with a Turkish-Cypriot accent — the outstanding selection of sucuk (Turkish sausage) has a section all to itself, while the bakery sells small snacks of pide, borek and koupes (bulgur and meat croquettes) for between £1-2 a pop.
The name notwithstanding, the sight of a woman (and it is always a woman) in the window kneading dough, stuffing it and frying it on a curved pan announces that the specialisation of this new cafe is gözleme. It’s possible to eat in, but these are ideally consumed in a hurry walking up and down the Lanes — fresh and piping hot from the pan, burning the tops of impatient mouths. Most gözleme are keenly priced at £2-2.50 depending on the stuffing, and it’s difficult to go wrong with spinach and cheese, potato, or minced meat. The real steal here, though, is takeaway manti — fingernail sized dumplings filled with minced meat that can be bought frozen by the kilo. These will provide sustenance for 5-6 meals with the mere addition of garlic yoghurt and chilli butter: a lazy chef’s dream.
Shiny and recently renovated, Gökyüzü sticks out among its peers on the east side of Green Lanes as the slickest operation on the road. It’s not just all veneer, though. With no obvious specialisation Gökyüzü’s strong areas are consistency and abundance — a great meal is guaranteed whether stews, kebabs, pide or mezze are chosen — virtues that propelled it to Tripadvisor’s No.1 restaurant in London for a few weeks (back in 2013 when that maybe meant something.) Expect a queue on Fridays and weekends, but Hala (next on the list) is right next door for those who want to jump ship. Or try its newer branches in Walthamstow or on the Chingford section of the North Circular road.
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Hala is arguably the best all-round restaurant on this stretch of Green Lanes. Hala means ‘aunt’ in Turkish — a name that’s reflected in the generosity of the home-style food, and by the sight of Turkish aunties making gözleme in the window every morning. Diners in the mood for meat should try the adana, kaburga (ribs) and pirzola (chops), mopped up with bread blessed with the juices and fat from the grill, but groups should make room for their excellent versions of içli köfte and manti instead of ordering starters. Solo eaters should also consider the humble paça çorbası; the Platonic ideal of a meat soup taken to its rich, buttery extreme, only achievable by careful stewing of gelatinous sheep’s foot. Washed down with ayran and some pickles this is the ultimate late-night hangover cure.
Since long before everyone went wild for jackfruit tacos and fried seitan, this small cafe (the London outpost of a Turkish chain) has been quietly making some of the tastiest vegan meat-substitute food in the capital. ÇiğKöftem unsurprisingly specialises in çiğ köfte — usually a blend of lamb, bulgur and spices eaten raw like tartare — here made entirely from wheat and tomatoes. Wrapped in bread or lettuce, with the addition of herbs and chilli sauce, it makes a very wholesome and convincing alternative. It should be noted: the entire restaurant is not vegan. Içli köfte (minced meat encased in deep fried balls of durum wheat) and tantuni (cigar shaped rolls of chopped, spiced beef) are both very much non-vegetarian and very much delicious.
The latest branch of Antepliler, across the road from Künefe Salonu, specialises in all things döner, with two vast and trunkless legs of chicken and lamb in constant rotation in the window throughout the day. The quality of the döner meat here is a riposte to every single white boy who has tried to launch a ‘posh-kebab’ shop: nutty and sweet with fibrous sinews, it has neither the homogeneous texture nor pallid colour of lesser versions. Make no mistake though, this is not health food. Iskender is brought to the table with a final artery-clogging piece of theatre: hot melted butter is poured from brass jugs, anointing the mix of döner, strained yoghurt and tomato sauce with a velvety gloss.
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Maybe the best single-dish restaurant in the whole of London, this dessert spin-off next door to Antepliler does one thing only and one thing well: künefe. The Turkish variant of the pan-Arab dessert, cheese is placed between two discs of wiry kadayif pastry, fried in skillets until molten, then doused in syrup and pistachios. Künefe can be ordered plain, but two things are essential to cut through the sweetness: clotted cream and a strong Turkish tea fresh from the samovar. In the evenings, Künefe Salonu also serves as a social hub for the area, with most seats taken up by Turkish families or groups of friends, with passers-by stopping in for a chat (and a bite if they are lucky).
Moving down the east side of Green Lanes, Antepliler is hard to miss, now greedily sprawling over five shopfronts dedicated to different specialities. The restaurant proper, however, originally made its reputation on the back of the quality of its baked goods. A custom-made oven takes up one of the windows and is in use all day (even on Christmas) baking impossibly light and crisp lahmacun which can be taken away for £2.50, and boat-shaped pide. Apart from the breads, Antepliler also specialises in dishes from Gaziantep in south Turkey which it is named after. Try the fistik kebab (£12), a variation on adana with bright green Antep pistachios and cheese, or the special hummus topped with chopped lamb, before ordering in some walnut or pistachio baklava from their baklavaci next door.
Arguably the best ocakbasi in Harringay, Diyarbakır undeservedly flies under the radar, partly due to its austere, no-frills nature. The cooking here hails from Turkey’s southern Anatolia region, and grilled meats are uniformly outstanding with a particularly strong yogurtlu selection (which is more of the same, but with the added virtues of yoghurt and browned butter). Fish — so often abused and overcooked on the grill — is given the respect it deserves, making levrek (sea bass) and cupra (sea bream) both good choices. Everything is cooked with care: even the freebies of house-baked bread and burnt onions cooked in pomegranate molasses are a cut above most. Diyarbakır is also the only restaurant on the road with a no alcohol policy, but ayran (salted yoghurt) and salgam (turnip juice) flow.
The reputation of this newish spot has been bubbling on Green Lanes for a few months now. It’s the most exciting thing to open on this storied stretch of the A105 in a good while, for several good reasons: its devotion to the soothing, richly homespun depth of soups and stews, whether tangy with yoghurt or rich with lamb’s offal, head, and brain; its being open until 3 a.m. in a city whose “late night food” normally stops at a child’s bedtime; and its being the new darling of London’s Turkish and Kurdish restaurants, whose centrality to the city’s culinary landscape sadly, rarely correlates to anything resembling “hype” when it truly should.