Ali Ocakbasi (Turkish) – Leicester Square, LondonHALAL STATUS Fully Halal food menu • Alcohol served
With their flagship restaurant overlooking the Galata Bridge in the ancient harbour of Istanbul’s Golden Horn and the other in Amsterdam, they have now introduced Anatolian cuisine in Leicester Square.
Located on Irving Street, this 100-cover venue has indoor seating for 85, with 60 on the ground floor and 25 in a semi-private room downstairs, along with an outdoor area that can comfortably accommodate for 16.
The restaurant itself is modern, clean, airy and quite inviting, with plenty of space and a good buzz when full.
The semi-private room downstairs also deserves a mention for its distinct outlook. In comparison to its counterpart upstairs, this has an almost cafe-style setup, with an attractively large wall painting of Istanbul and the Bosphorus from the early half of the 20th century.
The things we do for you guys! Here’s all 14 Cold Starters, as well as a portion of bread from the Extras section of the menu, in fulfilment of our modus operandi of providing you the “comprehensive Halal reviews”.
Starting with the centre dish of cold meatballs, we move on to the plate of humus located at 3 o’clock, and make our way clockwise around the above mouthwatering platter, which corresponds below to each adjacent tab to the right:
This was a first time for all three of us. And how good these meatballs were too. Thick, with a slightly dry texture that didn’t matter when had with the fresh and crispy lettuce leaves.
What’s more, there wasn’t a hint of an odour emanating from the raw minced meat thanks to the headiness of the freshly ground spices used therein, which were nicely countered following a generous squeeze of the lemon.
Even at a cursory glance, it was quite apparent to us what the texture of this generous plate of humus would turn out to be. And just as we’d guessed: chalky as opposed to being smooth, with not much of a taste to it.
The quality of the yoghurt was superb. As creamy and smooth as you’d like, with a hint of tang, made all the better with the small chunks of crunchy cucumber therein.
An interesting one this, with the smokiness of these soft and well-oiled slices of roasted red pepper lingering in the background. Not bad; but nothing we’d pay £5.90 for if we’re being honest.
This was arguably one of the best versions of this Turkish dish we’ve had. Defined again by the quality of the yoghurt, this roasted eggplant mixture was creamy and textured, with garlic apparent throughout.
Probably the most challenging of all the starters had, but not in an unpleasant way. With a soft-cum-crunchy texture, this thick layer of cheese had a good piquancy to it that had us coming back for more.
Another memorable one was this thick, paste-like Muhammara, with bits of crunch to it, which had a delightfully pungent earthy sweetness to it, and some heat that lingered pleasantly thereafter.
With a peculiarly gooey almost gunky texture, this roasted pureed eggplant was quite plain, with not much of smokiness coming through. We prefer the yoghurty Abagannus-version ourselves.
A lightly textured salad of sorts, with the wet creamy bulghur, having properly absorbed the spices, offering some heat along with a touch of crunch from the diced vegetables. Pretty good!
This was a really good dish comprising of freshly fried eggplant, which had a touch of bite to it, and potatoes, all of which were topped by a zingy pickled tomato puree, with onions running through it, and a dollop of that fantastic Turkish yoghurt.
This was, at least for one Lion, the best of cold starters had on account of its unique textures and flavours.
This crumbled goat cheese had a softness to it which, when had with bread, made for a satisfying little eat.
What we really appreciated was the way in which the pungency of the cheese was countered by either of the two accompanying butter pastes, which were relatively smooth, but offered two distinct though mild flavours.
Good assortment of thickly cut pickles that’ll have you masticating for a while. We enjoyed the marriage between the heat of the spicy dressing and the zestiness of the vinegar.
Salty with a solidly strong aroma, this segment of cheese was smooth and non-dry, just as it should be.
Oh yes! And again that ridiculously good, fresh creamy yoghurt whose slightly tangy aftertaste went so well with the dollop of chilli red pepper in the middle. Superb!
Really nicely puffed-up, unsalted bread which, we think, was a clever thing, since it resulted in them going well with any of the cold starters.
A traditional pidette that’s essentially a simple pizza, if you will, with the gently spiced and aromatic ground beef thinly and evenly spread across the base.
With a crispy exterior, this isn’t too bad as an appetiser, and pretty good too in terms of its portion size given the price.
This humus suffered from the same shortcoming as its colder counterpart – it simply wasn’t that silky smooth texture we yearn for in a well made humus.
As for the generous portion of pastrami strips roughly placed over the top, then despite their attractive blood-red colour and their glistening sheen, they were a touch chewy. Nevertheless, they did well in imparting some smokiness to the dish. If only the humus was better though.
In spite of its perceived simplicity, with warm tomato as the star of the show, this turned out to be an intriguing one.
The pomegranate dressing offered a sweet and sourness to the whole thing, with the finely chopped walnuts lending some much needed texture to this otherwise soft and wet plate.
FROM THE OVENRECOMMENDED
Presented on a large wooden board was this beautiful golden-brown vessel made of pastry, with ground seasoned lamb and plenty of soft melted cheese on top as its cargo.
Sliced into equal portions and banked against a small portion of dressed salad, the part to grab first if you’re sharing is definitely either end. The wonderfully crispy pastry on the outside, with a thin but relatively firm base, when had altogether, is a delightful combination of textures and flavours.
The thick gooey stringy cheese; the fragrant and lightly spiced finely-textured meat; and the pepperiness of the greens – a superb pide, and easily one of the best we’ve ever had which, given its size, is easily worth the price.
FROM THE GRILL
There was one meat on this board that was beyond compare. The humble chicken on this board outshone its two partners with considerable ease. What defined its greatness was its utter tenderness, with a deliciously spicy marination that complimented the sheer quality of the poultry.
And lastly, the kofte kebab, while being extremely tender with a good char, though minus any smokiness coming through, was slightly on the fatty side, with a slightly off-putting odour too as a result.
With grilled onions, tomatoes, pickles and naan bread, this was also accompanied by a generous bowl of large grained, soft rice, with the subtle heat of paprika coming through soothingly.
We’ve had variations of this traditional kebab dish before, with a more modernised version had at Laz Camden last year.
And with the kebabs mixed and cooked to offer some much needed textural contrast against the mushy-softness of the bread cube base, this culminated in a dangerously addictive eat.
In all, a Manisa which, contrary to appearances, actually turned out to be a rather light dish.
This might be an acquired taste; but for us, this was a seriously sweet dish, even for our collective sweet toothes.
The viscous gelatinous mass of jello, covered as it was in an equally sweet syrup, was covered in a sweet crumb, had a slight bite to it, and was served with a dollop of ice cream that turned out to be out of place. Not quite for us!
There aren’t many places that go out of their way to make kunefe simply because it takes time and preparation, with the key to its success revolving around the freshness of its ingredients.
On first appearances, it was obvious that this had caught around the edges. And so it proved, with the resultant acridity turning out to be a little distracting.
Further still, while this was well saturated in the sweet syrup, with the cheese being gooey, and with plenty of crushed pistacio crumbled over the top, the long thin noodle threads didn’t have that delicacy one would look for in a perfectly executed kunefe. A real pity!RECOMMENDED
The pick of the desserts for us was this unassuming Kabak Tatlisi. A pumpkin based pud that was, in spite of its simple presentation, utterly tasty and something altogether quite different.
Yes, it looks like a glittery dollop of dough on a plate; and though it wasn’t very far off in terms of texture, this sticky almost gooey patty had a vanilla-sweet taste running through it, and one which was just on the right side of sweetness. As such, and being served warm, this really went well with the smooth creamy ice cream.
Although the Ayran was decent enough, it was the Salgam – a traditionally popular turnip beverage enjoyed across the southern parts of Turkey – that we really found most intriguing, with the sharp hit of the tangy spice therein really helping to ready the tastebuds for any forthcoming feast.
Nothing better, particularly after some solid meat-heavy dishes, to wash things down with some Turkish tea and some powerful shots of caffiene.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- UBER EATS
- FREE WI-FI
Most impressive was their starters which had versions of staples with an interesting twist that were really well executed. And a word on their pide too - one of the best we've ever had!
In addition, while the restaurant was packed, their service was quite slick, with staff members at the ready to assist.
The restaurant adds a 12.5% service charge, and offers a 20% discount to local businesses.
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