Eating Eurovision, Turkey - Antepliler on Green Lanes
When we drew Turkey out of the hat for Eating Eurovision we knew we had hit the jackpot. Having been on a gastro-trip to Istanbul we knew we liked the food and had a frame of reference, albeit fairly limited.
We received dozens of brilliant suggestions on where to find the heart of the Turkish community in London and almost all of them led to either Green Lanes or Stoke Newington. Some say they are the same place. Others disagree. On the sage advice from Niahm, @astareny and @lovelychaos and backed up by a great review on Travels with my Fork, we headed to Green Lanes in search of Antepliler.
According to Ahmed, who seemed to either be the owner, or at the very least heavily involved in Antepliler, their restaurant is the most authentic Turkish restaurant in London. This is backed up by the Time Out review which indicates that Antepliler serves a far more interesting range of Turkish food than anywhere else. On top of the normal kebabs they serve a fascinating, and delicious, variety of food that is from the "Food Paradise" region of Soth Eastern Turkey known as "Gaziantep". According to Ahmed at lunch time they have around 80% turkish diners and during the evening it is around 50%. It is certainly one of the restaurants at the heart and soul of the Turkish community.
We placed ourselves in the hands of our fabulous waiter with the instructions that we wanted to taste and learn about proper Turkish food. The dshes we were served were fabulous. The spicing was intelligent, the grease levels were low, and the flavours shone through like a black thong under a white linen skirt.
The great thing about Antepliler is that they combine my two favourite cooking methods - wood fired ovens and the charcoal grill. This means you are guaranteed smokey, charred flavours. And lots of meat.
Here's how our meal panned out.
Hummus is hummus isn't it? Well this was particulary good. Creamy and rich with olive oil. We landed up smearing it on everything!
Halloumi was beautifully grilled to a gentle char and barely squeaked on the teeth.
Patlican Kizartma was my favouirte dish. As it was also for our waiter who recommended it with great gusto. The slices of aubergine were smokey and reminded me of our trip to Istanbul. The tomato and garlic sauce made for a simple but powerful backdrop.
Ezme was a essentially a Turkish salsa that lent heat, context and zing to the rest of our starters. It is made with crushed chillies, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and lots of other goodies. You can find a good recipe here.
Icli kofte were awesome. They are like Turkish scotch egggs but with minced lamb instead of pork and no egg! The crispy shell and deeply savoury lamb mince were a match made in heaven with the ezme.
Lahmacun is a bit like the garlic pizza brad you get in Strada, but much, much better. And Turkish! All the tables around us were gorging on bowlfulls of it which can be used as the implement to eat all the amazing starters. It is a crispy Turkish flat bread topped with minced lamb, garlic, tomato and peppers. It was a revelation and something that is definitely going to be cooked in our pizza oven!
Gunahkar pide was billed on the menu as "surprise". So we had to have it. It was like a pizza but with more earthy spices that it's Italian cousins where the basil and the tomato have zip, this had a more bass feel to it. A topping of egg, sausage and tomato was fun, but not our favourite. We'll stick with pizza.
Alti Ezmeli Tavuk was a chicken kebab served with a spicy tomato sauce that was really excellent. The meat was tender and licked with the addictive flavour that only a charcoal grill can deliver.
Tavuklu is a speciality that you have to order 40 minutes in advance. It arrived straight from the wood fired oven, sizzling with the sort of heat you normally find in a nuclear explosion. It's a chicken caserole, like a tagine, but with more spice and a rich base of tomatoey sweetness. It had us squabbling about who was going to get the last bite. We loved it and have been informed that it doesn't often pop up on other Turkish restaurant's menus.
Vegy kebabs were just that. The peppers and aubergine were sweet and smoky. Just how we like them. The bulgar wheat and yoghurt were a great way of soaking up some of the juices and calming the heat.
Pirzola are charcoal grilled lamb cutlets that brought out the hunter gather instinct in us. Gnawing on a hot, sweet, juicy piece of lamb is one of life's great pleasures. The meat wasn't the most tender, but then again the flavour was delicious.
By this stage our chairs were creaking and a number of buttons were looking pretty precarious. So we did our best to make our excuses and leave, but our waiter was having none of it. He insisted on brining us a complimentary plate of baklava from their patissierie next door. On the way home we debated whether baklava is worse for you thank Turkish Delight and the view was that they must be. But never mind that. They tasted amazing with the sweetness of honey and depth from the vivid green pistaccio.
Intrigued by the fact that all of the other tables were drinking what looked like milk we ordered a glass of Ayran which is actually soured yoghurt with salt. Apparently it aids digestions and helps to combat some of the spicier dishes. Although we didn't drink it all, we enjoyed it. Oddly it reminded me of Actimels.
We finished with a glass of the strongest tea I've ever had. It had the bitterness of coffee and lightness of tea which is quite a weird combination. That said, it made for a fabulous end to a memorable and very educational meal.
We wondered home via various Turkish delis and bought some Turkish Delight to keep us going on the way home. If you want to discover the brilliant world of Turkish food, then head on down to Green Lanes and pay Antepliler a visit. You won't be disappointed.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: