The scent of cumin fills my nostrils as I open my rucksack to pull out a notebook to write. My bag is full of camera (essential for these expeditions with S & C), presents from Morocco and Singapore and shopping bounty of Turkish foodstuff.
I’ve just been to Harringay in London with my friends S & C. We’ve taken to meeting up in London, choosing an area with great food, going for any or all of lunch, dinner and nibbles, exploring the local normally ethnic & normally food shops, always including a pit stop or two for some good espresso (C & I are both fans).
C & S have just come back from a trip to Morocco, hence the amazingly fragrant and vibrant cumin. In my bag there are also ras-el-hanout from Morocco and bag of kopi (coffee) all the way from Singapore. The later was kindly brought over by S who remembers the addiction I picked up on my trip there. How could she not remember? I bore her with it frequently enough! When I love something, then I really really love it and can’t stop enthusing about it to those who listen and to those who don’t! I can enjoy it for weeks and months. My enthusiasm is boundless. Consider yourself warned.
Towers of London
I’ve recently grown to love Turkish food, as I’ve told you once or twice or zillion times before, and C & S are also serious fans. Harringay, dubbed Little Turkey, is unsurprisingly a fantastic choice for Turkish food.
For lunch, we headed to Antepliler, a Turkish food emporium consisting of 4 locales one next to the other: baklava shop, restaurant, cafe’ and lachmahun/pide joint. It was nearly noon, and the restaurant has just opened, though there weren’t quite fully geared up for service as not all the staff have yet arrived for work! By the time we’ve ordered our dishes, though, the whole operation seemed to be in sleek order. ‘We don’t need to go to Turkey for food, we can come here’, I was told by my friends when we came in, and thought to myself: ‘Yeah, right”. And you know what, yeah, they were right! The food was fantastic! I should have known better though, C & S know their stuff.
We ordered mixed meze for 2, 2 lachmahuns and two kebabs, water and tea. The mixed meze turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some dishes were excellent: fantastic and tasty dolma (sarma, technically speaking, in Turkish cooking), grilled halloumi, sujuk, yoghurt salad with cucumber (cacik), spinach and yoghurt salad (I was surprised to find the spinach fresh and vibrant, little cooked), falafel, burek. The green beans zeytinagli (cooked in olive oil), finely chopped tomato salad, bulgur, pepper and tomato salad and hummus were a bit disappointing. Tasteless tomatoes I’m not surprised about; after all, it’s hardly their season. But there’s no excuse about the hummus, which could have and should have been better, stronger flavoured and less bland. But the meze that were good were really very good, so on balance, we were very happy with our starters.
The remainder of the meal was fantastic! The lahmacuns were delicious. Really very good indeed, and possibly the best I’ve had to date. I was pleased we were served a seasonal carrot and cabbage salad with them.
Nice to be served a seasonal salad
We had two kebabs: mixed and a Gaziantep special. The mixed kebab, large enough to feed 2, consisted of beautifully grilled chicken and lamb cubes (shish), chicken wings, lamb ribs and adana kebab with minced pepper. I really liked everything except for the lamb ribs which were somewhat overcooked for my taste. The Gaziantep Special, Sogan Kebab, was a true masterpiece! The finely minced delicious lamb was grilled with whole shallots, and cooked with a deliciously tangy pomegranate sauce. It came protected with a flatbread which kept it nice and warm. The shallots and the lamb were divine, the sauce fantastic, and the whole combination, smoky and meaty and slightly pomegranate-sour, mouth-watering.
Remnants of a sogan kebab: delicious, juicy and pomegranate-sour
Overall, it was a fantastic meal, and I even forgive them the insipid humus! Especially when I realised that the Turkish tea and bread were free, and that the meal was very good value. We were very well fed and happy people. The meal could have fed another (small) one.
Making pide in Antepliler
I took a few photos of the restaurant, and chatted to one of the waiters. I complimented the food. Apparently, their secret is: fresh meat every day and the fact that the boss eats there! He pointed him out, sitting in the corner near the food counters. I’ve got to say this boss has excellent tastes and excellent cooks!
We wondered out into the street happy and took a stroll around the neighbourhood. I was pointed out a few Eastern European and when we crossed into the “Cypriot territory”.
A friendly local in front of one of the community clubs
Towards the end of the row of shops, it was time for the coffee pit stop, our destination the swanky Blend. The cafe felt like stepping into a different world, a world with bright white walls, Scandinavian design and large abstract geometric paintings on the wall. Comfortably looking chairs and sofas, and a children’s section with books and toys. And above all, some very good coffee. I like my flat white a little more robust, but its flavours were excellent. My friends also enjoyed their double espresso and chai latte.
After Blend, we walked a little more and popped into a few food shops. We saw fragrant quinces and herbs, bewildering variety of Turkish cheeses and olives, different types of filo and yufka, huge tubs of kaymak (800 g!), Turkish tea and coffee, fresh and dried vegetables, lentils, rice and bulgur, spices, meat and yoghurt. The ingredients that immediately transported me to Turkey! I picked up a bounty of 2 lots of olives, pekmez (grape molasses for making simit and nevzine), and the not so Turkish chocolates and smoked herring. I’ve got to come back again on a Saturday, shop and then cook the goodies on a Sunday. I know a few people who can help me with that 800 g tub of kaymak.
Pastries in a local bakery
We popped into a local bakery, Yasar Halim, to inspect the range of goodies on offer: differnt types of bread (including the delicious coil-shaped tahini bread), lahmacun, boreks, seasame sticks, simits, baklava, cakes and much more! I see they sell sheets of filo, too. Must remember that for next time!
Friendly people at Yasar Halim bakery
In one of the shops, I asked where we can find the best baklava in the area. Antepliler, I was told. So that sealed the deal, we had to go back! And their baklava was good. Not as good as Gulluoglu’s in Istanbul, but by far the best I’ve had in the UK. I happily bought a box to take home.
Trays of yum
Back to that cumin. Oh it smells so good!
Antepliler, 46 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1AG