The Iskelé (Mediterranean) – Barbican

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

british kebab award winner The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

British Kebab Awards 2017 – Best Value

The Iskelé in Barbican is an award-winning eatery which, only this year, was recognised as the nation’s Best Value restaurant at the British Kebab Awards.

Having been open for a decade now, this Meditarranean Bar & Grill was, on the evening of 0ur visit, packed to its dark wooden rafters.

While the many small Moroccan-style lanterns manage to create a warm ambience, The Iskelé’s rustic decor is made apparent by the many other decorative wall ornaments that include: candles complete with a melted wax effect, ornate carpet rugs, and even an old musket piece.

Overall, however, the restaurant has a warm, welcoming ambience about it and has a capacity of 120 indoors, and a sizeable 84 outdoors.

DRINKS

cocktail mocktail drink The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

(Left-Right) Virgin Pina Colada, Virgin Mary, Lolita, Virgin Mojito – £4.95 each

drink The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Iron

Of the quartet of beverages that made our way, the Virgin Mary stood head and shoulders above the rest. Its unmistakable hit of Worcestershire sauce was strong without being overbearingly; but this was certainly one of the better ones we’ve had.

The weakest, however, was the Lolita – essentially a spruced up orange drink, with perhaps a touch of lemon to it.

While we were greeted also with a disappointingly insipid Virgin Pina Colada, where neither the coconut nor the pineapple really stood out, the Virgin Mojito, though not as rousing as we would have liked, was refreshingky well balanced.

As for the Iron, then it was what it was – fresh with a hint of salt.

STARTERS - COLD MEZE

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

bread The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican KebabWe went for the Healthy Meal (£13.95 per person) that comprised of both hot and cold mezes:

  • Cold Meze: Houmous (V), Broad Beans (V), Tabbouleh (V), Aubergine Ratatouille (V).
  • Hot Meze: Borek (V), Falafel (V), Halloumi Cheese (V), Chicken on Wooden Skewers, Lamb on Wooden Skewers, Lamb Kofte.

Note that ours was for three persons and came with baked bread.

We also ordered a number of additional classic Turkish cold mezes.

HoumousBaba GhanoushAubergine RatatouilleTabboulehBaby Broad BeansTzatzikiChilli
The Iskelé houmous Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Houmous (V) – Puree of chick peas, tahini, lemon, garlic, £4.45

Despite being tasty with a hint of sourness to it, this Houmous was slightly on the grainy side. We prefer ours smooth à la Maroush’s.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Baba Ghanoush (V) – Caviar of smoked aubergine, tahini, lemon and olive oil, £4.95

The smokiness of the aubergine certainly came through with this Baba Ghanoush. More importantly, however, it had a good texture, being neither gooey nor overly slimey as some can be.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Aubergine Ratatouille (V) – Stewed aubergine, tomatoes & peppers, £4.95

A delightful bowl of stewed Aubergine Ratatouille which seemed to literally dissolve in the mouth. Soft, with a lovely tanginess to it, this still managed to retain some bite.

The Iskelé Tabbouleh Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Tabbouleh (V) – A salad which combines flat-leafed parsley, mint and lemon with bulgur, tomato, onion with pomegranate syrup, £4.45

This crunchy Tabbouleh had just the right amount of lemon to allow the freshness of the parsley, mint and finely diced onions to come through. A good one.

The Iskelé Baby Broad Beans Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Baby Broad Beans (V) – Seasoned with coriander on creamy yogurt, £4.95

A plate of standard Baby Broad Beans atop slightly sour yoghurt. Nothing special!

The Iskelé Tzatziki Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Tzatziki (V) – Yoghurt dip with cucumber, fresh mint, fresh dill and a touch of garlic, £4.25

Chunks of cucumber in a mildly sour, creamy yoghurt is what defined this Tzatziki.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

This was arguably the best of the cold mezes and bemusing as to why it wasn’t on the actual menu.

A simple yet delicious chilli concoction which, though usually presented as a paste, was instead diced with finely chopped onions mixed in with tomatos and red pepper. A hint of chilli and a touch of smokiness from the peppers were the main flavours here, and so good that we asked for seconds to accompany some of the following meat dishes. Superb!

STARTERS - HOT MEZE

mixed grill The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

(left-right) Mitete Kofte – Grilled mince lamb patties mixed with chopped parsley onions and served with salad, £4.95
Chicken on Wooden Skewers – Served with salad, £5.25
Lamb on Wooden Skewers – Served with salad, £5.25

The best of this trio of kebabs was the Mitete Kofte, with attractive griddle marks across the top that ensured a beautiful charred taste. Texturally, it was chewy thanks to the kofte’s fat content.

As for the Wooden Skewers, then while the chicken was beautifully succulent with a subtle marinade, the Lamb was a little too fatty, and thus overly chewy. Nonetheless, it tasted okay.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Spinach & Feta Pastry Parcels (Borek) (V) – Filo pastry parcels filled with spinach & feta cheese, £4.45
Falafel (V) – Deep fried patties made from chickpeas, herbs and spices, £4.45
Halloumi Cheese (V) – Grilled Cyprus halloumi cheese with salad, £5.25

A Halloumi Cheese that isn’t rubbery will always be a good’un with us.

Despite the crunchy Falafel, covered in sesame seeds, wasn’t anything special, things were redeemded by the Borek, at least in terms of taste with its smooth, cheesy interior; though the filo pastry exterior failed to turn out crispy.

STEAKS & CHARGRILLS

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Lamb on Skewer – Marinated pieces of lamb fillets threaded on to skewer, grilled and served with rice and salad, £13.95

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican KebabWhile the Lamb on Skewer certainly looked the part, with its shiny, well-charred exterior, it turned out to be fairly disappointing.

For one, it was simply far too fatty in content resulting in an ultra-chewy mouthful.

What’s worse, was the fact that this non-rendered fat was almost crunchy in places.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the entire skewer was, we all concluded, over seasoned.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Adana Kebab

Iskele Special (Adana Kebab) – Minced lamb kneaded with fresh herbs, grilled on skewer, served with rice & salad, £13.45

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican KebabAnd the same was true re seasoning with this Iskele Special (Adana Kebab) – it was oversalted.

This was presented with a tomato sauce that really shouldn’t have had any earthly business being paired up with a kebab.

In spite of these shortcomings, however, the Adana was soft and juicy, slightly fatty, and very well cooked.

The rice, however, certainly seemed reheated.

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Lamb Cutlets

Grilled Juicy Lamb Cutlets – Served with chips and salad, £14.95

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican KebabThese Grilled Juicy Lamb Cutlets could have been so good, except that these too were a tad oversalted.

Otherwise, these were pink on the inside and soft and beautifully tender, with a fantastic char on the outside.

Nevertheless, these were your standard sized chops, which, for £14.95, seemed a touch dear.

The best of the main dishes had on the evening though!

SPECIALS & CASSEROLES

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine – On the bone oven cooked lamb with dried fruit, nuts and vegetables served with rice, £12.95

The Lamb Tagine split the crowd. Though one Lion literally dismissed this as a flavourless “dead dish”, the other two, while agreeing to an extent that the meat was definitely bland, weren’t as dismissive.

The lamb itself was soft and so effortlessly slipped off the bone. And though fatty in places, which was to be expected given its cut, the prunes therein were soft and well mixed in with, what was it has to be said, a vapid gravy. As such, the carrots and courgettes were desperately needed as compensation for a dish that, otherwise, would have been a disappointing one.

SEAFOOD

The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Fish Seafood Kebab

Skewered Fish Special – Sea bass, salmon & king prawns chargrilled and served with stir-fried vegetables, £13.95

In all honesty, there wasn’t anything special about this The Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican KebabSkewered Fish Special.

Take, for instance, the Salmon which was overcooked and positively dry. The same was also true of the thin slither of Sea Bass.

And while the Stir Fried Vegetables were decently cooked, the sauce was far too salty to enjoy.

The only redeeming factor with this dish were the King Prawns – soft with a touch of springiness, and a slightly salty aftertaste.

Given that this dish was grilled could be the reason for it turning out dry.

Whatever the case, it was extremely poor!

DESSERTS

Dessert Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican kebabs

Ottoman Kadayif (n) – Shredded pastry with cream filling, pistachio and syrup, £4.45

What a superb dessert this Ottoman Kadayif was. With an ultra-crispy make up, this was utterly different.

The sweet syrup poured over the top married so well with the cream filling that it had us coming back for spoon after spoon.

dessert Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Warm Apricots (n) – Sun dried apricot with clotted cream, £4.45

Although this wasn’t exactly the most attractive dish of the evening, despite a valiant attempt to the contrary, it certainly tasted far better than it looked.

The apricots were indeed warm, with a lovely, slighty bitter aftertaste that was countered by the apricot jam. With glazed walnuts on top that provided a textural contrast, the entire dish was well tempered by the clotted cream.

dessert Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab

Baklava (n) – Filo pastry – (left-right) pistachio, almond, walnuts, £3.95

The Baklava were you standard type: the pistachio chewy and subtle; the almond decent; and the walnut gooey and true.

TEAS

Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab tea coffee

Turkish CoffeeTurkish TeaAppel Tea
Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab tea coffee

Turkish Coffee £2.25

If you haven’t had it before, then be prepared for an extremely strong, bitter brew that requires far more than a couple of Turkish Delights to help fully down.

Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab tea coffee

Turkish Tea £2.20

Despite allowing it a while to properly brew, this dull Turkish Tea remained exactly that throughout.

Iskelé Turkish Halal restaurant London Barbican Kebab Apple Tea Coffee

Apple Tea £2.30

Apple Tea, on the other hand, was far stronger and, thus, a soothing finale.

THE ROAR
The Iskelé
3 FTL's Roar
4.3 Pride's Roar (2 Roars)
Alcohol/ Pork?
  • YES/ NO
Facilities
  • CHILD SEATING
  • DISABLED FACILITIES
  • DELIVEROO
  • UBER EATS
Summary
The Iskelé was recognised as the country's "Best Value" restaurant at the British Kebab Awards this year. And given the quality of the kebabs had during our review, this was certainly reflected in the prices. However, our greatest let down of the evening, and one we hope was only an incidental blip, was the chef's apparent heavy-handed use of salt in some of the main dishes. Otherwise, the kebabs were fairly well cooked.

In any case, one huge positive for The Iskelé was how well regimented all the waiters were. Despite it being a busy evening, they carried a constant smile with them along with an unstintingly positive attitude throughout as they served and catered for the requests of the customers with such professionalism that wouldn't be out of place at any high-end restaurant.

Menu Recommendation

Drinks - Virgin Mary

Starter - Aubergine Ratatouille or Complimentary Chilli

Main - Grilled Juicy Lamb Cutlets

Dessert - Ottoman Kadayif

FOOD
PRICE
ATMOSPHERE
SERVICE
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The Iskelé
179-181 Whitecross Street, Barbican,
London EC1Y 8QP.

T: +44 (0)20 7490 0082 | W: theiskele.com | E: info@theiskele.com

Opening Hours: Sun-Wed 12:00–22:30 | Thur-Sat 12:00–23:00

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