There are few bigger food success stories in London food than that of Turkish cuisine. With the exception of Berlin, no European city has adopted Turkish food to the extent that it is woven into the city’s fabric, as ubiquitous and essential as the pub or the London chicken shop. Almost every main street and neighbourhood will have at least one restaurant or takeaway joint to grab a wrap or kebab, and luckier neighbourhoods — such as those in Green Lanes and Dalston — will have almost nothing but Turkish options. The following 12 restaurants showcase the best of London’s Turkish food, from restaurants started by the original Turkish-Cypriot immigrants to the city, through to the newer Kurdish mangals and the new wave ‘chef-led’ restaurants who are changing Londoners’ perception of what Turkish food can be.Read More
Where to Find Terrific Turkish Food in London
Grilled meats, Adana kebabs, lahmacun, pomegranate molasses-dressed salads — and more
‘Anatolian with Attitude’ is the swaggering credo of Skewd, emblazoned on everything from its menus to its Instagram page. Cocky? Perhaps. Do they deliver the goods? Absolutely. Here, Maz Demir has created a Turkish restaurant with flair and originality, beginning with excellent sourcing of meat and fish, topped off with a presentational flourish that immediately marks them out from many of the more indistinguishable mangals. Lamb shish is several strides ahead of most — quality of the meat shining through — and the Adana kebab is possibly the best in London. This buzzing Cockfosters spot may be in the ‘badlands’ of Zone 5 on the Piccadilly line, but is well worth the trek
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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.
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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.
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).
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
Mangal 2 Restaurant
Mangal 2 is famous for three reasons: one, it prepares excellent, no-nonsense Turkish food from an historic ocakbaşı — grilled chicken, lamb, and quail kebabs, pickled chillies and a classic grilled onion, sumac and pomegranate molasses salad. Two, the artists Gilbert and George eat there almost every night of the week. And three, the charismatic young general manager — Ferhat Dirik, once author the funniest, if unconventional, restaurant Twitter handle in town (RIP) — runs the room with expert ease. Iconic, reliable and fun, Mangal 2 is the pick of Kingsland Road’s many Turkish options and will always be a London institution.
London has a fairly well-documented issue with a lack of late-night restaurants. In short, there are few great places to eat in the capital past 11pm. The arrival of the night Tube may have slowly begun to initiate change, but for as long as the city’s councils remain at the mercy of local residents (making licenses difficult to acquire) eating (or at least eating well) will elude the majority of nocturnal Londoners. One time-honoured exception is Turkish restaurant Somine, in Dalston. During the week, it is open until 2am; Fridays and Saturdays until 5am. (It used to be 24-hours, but a recent license change means it now closes for two hours, opening again at 7am, at weekends.) But, really, any time is a good time for the lentil soup, vegetable stew, fine pickle plate, house-special manti dumplings, or any range of grilled meats from its roaring and reliable ocakbaşı
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Black Axe Mangal
It’s not that long ago that the existence of a “restaurant” like B.A.M. would have been unimaginable in London. But Lee Tiernan has pedigree (St. John) and London has changed. The novelty of Turkish-inspired (sourdough) flatbreads and kebabs by a British chef in Islington, against the backdrop of graffiti tributes to KISS et al., is matched only by its unique style and invention in the city. While a lot of what Black Axe does is inspired by Turkish grilling — the dish most inspired by the cuisine is the lamb offal flatbread, a pungent, earthy, and cheffy riff on the classic doner kebab.
Selin Kiazim’s first solo restaurant on the back streets between Old Street roundabout and Shoreditch is a modern marriage of the chef’s Turkish-Cypriot heritage and the cheffy, fusion cooking experience gained from years working with The Providores’ Peter Gordon. The small dining room and bar are organised around an open kitchen which utilises a wood oven and tiered grill with as much competence as any restaurant in the city. Grown-up pide (flatbreads) — marinated octopus with ricotta; or a classic lamb lahmacun — are served with a crisp, piquant pomegranate-dressed red cabbage salad with pickles; the regularly-changing grilled meats might include glazed lamb breast or half chicken served with preserved lemon and greens.
One of the few truly exceptional Turkish mangals outside of north and north-east London, Camberwell’s FM Mangal stands out even on a street blessed by restaurants as accomplished as Silk Road and The Camberwell Arms. The first omen of a good dinner is the freebies: hot flatbreads slicked with juices from the grill and onions blackened to a char covered in a sauce of sticky pomegranate molasses and vinegar, almost a meal in itself. Meat on the bone — kaburga (ribs), pirzola (chops) and bıldırcın (quail) — is universally done well here, and those who find it hard to choose will find them all on the no-brainer that is the special mixed grill, along with well spiced shish and kofte.