food & drink

A taste of Turkey: London’s best dining secret

Written by layla haidrani

I’ll let you into a secret. After a holiday to Turkey a few years ago, I never quite forgot the mouth-watering food. Not a single soggy chip in sight.

I’ll let you into a secret. After a holiday to Turkey a few years ago, I never quite forgot the mouth-watering food. Not a single soggy chip in sight. Instead, delectable meats, veggies and rice tantalised my taste buds.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to fork out on a plane ticket back to the Mediterranean after stumbling on North London’s little known eateries. In the unsuspecting borough of Haringey on the commercial Green Lane Street lies restaurants galore, all dedicated to satiating the needs of beloved customers who regularly haunt them.

Having dined numerous times at favourite Diyarbakir, I decided to opt for Zer, a couple of doors down and it certainly didn’t disappoint—it’s not hard to see why it’s been dubbed the best Turkish restaurant in London. Bustling with hungry diners tempted by the delicious aromas of well-cooked meat, forget that New Year detox resolution and tuck into the best authentic Turkish delights London has to offer!

A family-friendly restaurant with good, speedy service, Zer is certainly not part of the faddy fusion restaurants that many restaurants have succumbed to. Rather, its style and substance ensures that it appeals to a wide range of diners thanks to its timeless aura.

From first dates to family dinners, it’s undisputable that it caters to a diverse clientele. It is little wonder that during weekends, bustling crowds fight their way through for a table. The Turkish lights scattered all around the restaurant give it an intimate feel and charms and decorations featuring the famous Turkish ‘evil eye’ gives the restaurant a very authentic Turkish feel and Turkish and Arabic music plays as diners enjoy their meal.

Zer’s walls are covered in hand-painted murals detailing gold coins which is a nod to the word ‘Zer’, Persian for gold.

Almost immediately as you are seated by welcoming staff, the starters are placed on the tables. Generous portions of warm flatbread dripping in oil, delicious Cacik, a creamy yoghurt with garlic, mint and cucumber on the table and a huge portion of fresh salad containing an assortment of vegetables including red onion, cabbage, rocket and cucumber dressed in oil and served with lemon are perfect for whetting your appetite.

And then, down the street…

For the main course, diners will be spoilt for choice. Turkish foods are primarily meat-based but for those who prefer sea food or are vegetarian, there are many options. I would recommend the Lahmacun, a spicy Turkish and Middle-Eastern dish. But don’t be fooled – although on a very thin bread consisting of meat vegetable and spice mixture, it may look like a ‘Turkish pizza’, it is far more delicious than your average Hawaiian from Dominos.

My ultimate favourite is the sumptuous charcoal grills served with rice and salad, at £8-9, this huge plate will leave you satisfied. And if you fancy sharing, the family special for four to five people include chicken shish, lamb chops, quails and lamb ribs to name just a few for £35. If you prefer something smaller, the ‘Zer Izgara’ options works for two to three people and include the same food as the family special for around £23. With giant portions, it will certainly fill you up.

But don’t leave without drinking some tea, otherwise known as chai. Tea-lovers will be sure not to be disappointed, served on a Turkish plate, tea is drunk from small glasses to highlight its colour, served with cubes of sugar.

If you fancy some dessert after, walk down the street to Antepliler Patisserie. A cosy café nestled at the corner of its restaurant, entering the patisserie feels like you’ve stepped into the backstreets of Turkey thanks to its intricately woven chairs, Aztec paintings and authentic marble murals. Boasting a diverse range of diners with a chilled ambience, experts in delightfully authentic Turkish desserts, sweet tooths will be spoilt for choice.

Tuck into the baklava or house-made ice cream or alternatively, try the Kenafeh, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup made of sweet cheese sandwiched between shredded kenafeh pastry. A speciality from the Middle East particularly in Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, it is prepared on round trays with rose-scented syrup, cut into small parts and garnished with chopped pistachios.

Another option is the Katmer, a fried layered bread which can be prepared plain or stuffed with poppy seed paste or walnuts. Known in most of the regions in Turkey, it can also be served with jams or icing sugar.

The most wonderful thing about Turkish food, unlike fad food eateries, is that you won’t be left hungry. Forced to unzip the top button on my trousers while managing to keep my delicious meal at under £15, both my wallet and stomach were happy!

So before you fork out for that ticket to the Mediterranean, Zer and Antiepelier should satisfy your desires. What New Year detox?

What do you think? Have you been to these restaurants? Have your say in the comments section below.