AyaSofya Turkish Restaurant – Catford

Catford’s newest Turkish restaurant is up against some tough – and established – competition (with the likes of Turkish Kitchen, Mekan and Turquaz).

How would AyaSofya compare? K and I visited spontaneously last night, to find out.

 

Inside AyaSofya restaurant Catford
Inside AyaSofya

 

At 6pm the restaurant was empty. We were greeted promptly and quickly shown to a table. While the white wines didn’t appeal (limited choice including some Turkish wines that we weren’t familiar with and chose not to be adventurous) we ordered a bottle of Rioja, Spanish red @ £16.95. It wasn’t in stock so we settled for a Merlot wine from the Bordeaux region instead.

 

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Hellim and sucuk starter

 

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Calamari starter

 

For starters we shared sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage – gorgeous) @ £3.50, deep fried calamari @ £3.95 (light and tender, served piping hot) and grilled hellim cheese @ £3.95.

 

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Karisik kebab

 

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AyaSofya special

 

Our server was attentive and helpful, and made recommendations about the dishes when asked. For mains, K ordered a karisik kebab – chicken and lamb on the bone with side salad and rice @ £12.95 (excellent) and I ordered the AyaSofya special – chicken and lamb cubes in tomato with yoghurt, served with a side salad and rice, and chilli sauce @ £12.95 (this was great – the meat was lovely and tender, and really filling too).

 

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Baklawa and milk pudding with cinnamon (Muhallebi?) – complimentary

 

A group of ladies came into the restaurant to prepare it for a 60th birthday party, hanging lots of personal photos and ’60th’ decorations, obviously enjoying themselves and adding to a chirpy atmosphere.

 

The verdict: Nice, comfortable space where it’s easy to relax and enjoy the friendly service and great food. I’ll save room to order a dessert next time, as the Turkish milk pudding is divine. Great value too – our total bill for two including service came to £60.00).

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 195 Rushey Green, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4BD
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Photos on flickr: images of AyaSofya food
~ Location: AyaSofya map

 
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Ottolenghi Spitalfields

Walking along Artillery Lane, Spitalfields the other lunchtime, C and I spotted a newly opened branch of Ottolenghi (serving Mediterranean food and with an appealing cake display). We decided spontaneously to eat there.

Here’s the lunch menu from that particular day.

 

Mixed salad #1
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3 salads: roasted aubergine + almonds (at back); chargrilled broccoli (left); roasted sweet potato (front)

 
We both ordered a lunchtime small salad (selection of three salads) @ £11.50.

I chose these three salads and they were gorgeous (original and exciting; not your bog standard salads by any means):
~ roasted aubergine with sorrel yoghurt, turmeric pickled radish, spring onion + almonds (at back)
~ chargrilled (crunchy) broccoli with chilli + garlic
~ roasted sweet potato with burnt aubergine yoghurt, basil, caramel seeds + nuts

 

Mixed salad #2
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3 salads: chargrilled broccoli; roasted sweet potato; mixed beans

 
And C had
~ chargrilled broccoli with chilli + garlic
~ roasted sweet potato with burnt aubergine yoghurt, basil, caramel seeds + nuts
~ mixed green beans with broad beans, peas, toasted coconut, mint + lemon

 

To drink, I had a small Spanish Sameiras Blanco (an excellent dry white wine that went well with the salad flavours) and C had a Cheverny rosé wine (@ £6.50 each). The wine selection was unusual and we were both pleased with our choices.

 

Appealing cake display
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Lemon + mascarpone tarts – really disgusting (inedible, vile pastry tasted of lard)

 

I bought two lemon and mascarpone tarts @ £3.50 each to take home (intended to be a treat for K). Unfortunately, when we bit into them that evening, K’s face immediately creased up and he spat his mouthful out. The pastry was just vile (it had an unpleasant lard flavour to it, as if it had soaked up the flavour of something it shouldn’t have). One seriously disappointed K! While this may have been unlucky and a one-off accident, I won’t be buying any cakes from Ottolenghi for a long while, if ever again.

The verdict: Great salads and wines, shame about the cake.

 
Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
~ Address: 50 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, London
~ Postcode: E1 7LJ
~ Nearest station: Liverpool Street, Aldgate, Aldgate East
~ Website + menus: Ottolenghi website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Ottolenghi
~ Location: Ottolenghi map

 

Ottolenghi on Urbanspoon

Levante Pide – Lewisham

We decided to end the working week relaxing over a meal out on Friday evening. We wanted somewhere nice. And somewhere in Lewisham, South East London.

A web search (Google, Open Table, Trip Advisor, etc) showed that Levante Pide, a Turkish restaurant on Lewisham High Street, had better reviews and ranking over other central Lewisham restaurants. And so I booked a table via the Open Table site.

Roll on 8pm Friday night: on arrival the restaurant was packed and we were told they didn’t have our booking – perhaps we’d booked the restaurant with a similar name (Levante) at Hither Green? I showed the booking on my phone and we were shown to a table for two. Mix-up cleared.


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Inside Levante Pide – large and bright, stone clad walls

 

We weren’t in any hurry – we were intent on having a relaxing, leisurely meal. Even so, service was incredibly slow (to the extent I had to go find our waiter at one point).

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Menu

We ordered a bottle of chianti red wine, reasonably priced at £19.00 and these mixed meze starters: grilled haloumi cheese @ £4.50, sucuk izgara spicy Turkish sausage (excellent) @ £4.50, sigara boregi deep-fried filo dough stuffed with creamy Turkish white cheese and parsley @ £3.90 and calamari fried squid in a light crispy batter @ £4.50. They were all good and served with fresh salad but the sausage stood out as being the speciality dish here.

 

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Meze starters – grilled haloumi, sucuk spicy sausage, sigara boregi + calamari
 
For main course, K ordered Iskender kebab – lamb doner served with butter-coated bread with yoghurt and special Anatolian sauce, topped with sizzling butter @ £12.00 (simply amazing – really tender lamb pieces and gorgeous spicy sauce and flavours) and I had an Adana kebab – minced meat marinated with herb and grilled @£10.00. This was tainted with an unpleasant gassy flavour (from the way it had been grilled?) and I left it.

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Kebab main courses – Iskender and Adona

While I’m not the world’s biggest fan of puddings, I do love baklava (honey and nuts – my kind of ingredients) so in the interest of benchmarking (ahem) we ordered a portion to share (this was tasty enough but @ £3.50 for two pieces it seemed either over-priced or a small portion) along with an Irish coffee made with Baileys @ £3.90 each.

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Baklava + Irish coffee with Baileys

The verdict: a bit hit and miss (some food was great, some food – like the complimentary bread and the Adana kebab – had an unpleasant gassy taste) and service was poor. There are plenty of other good Turkish restaurants in the area, like Turquaz (with friendly staff and entertaining belly dancing) that have an edge over Levante Pide.

And – if your dining criteria is a good restaurant in the Lewisham area – head over to Catford, where there are several great restaurants and a variety of international cuisines.

 

Restaurant info:

~ Lardbutty rating: 2.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 187 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London
~ Postcode: SE13 6AA
~ Nearest station: Lewisham
~ Website + menus: Levante Pide website
~ Photos: Levante Pide food photos
~ Location: Levante Pide map

Levante Pide on Urbanspoon

Turquaz – Catford

Authentic Turkish food + live belly dancing in Catford SE6

Next door to the large TFC Turkish supermarket on busy Bromley Road, you’ll find Turquaz Turkish restaurant.

We’d walked passed it many times and not thought much of it (it’s not especially appealing from outside). It was some enthusiastic personal recommendations that led us here last night.

What sets it apart is its super-welcoming, friendly staff (who genuinely seem to enjoy themselves looking after their customers), great Turkish food and lively atmosphere with live belly-dancing entertainment by a stunning dancer.


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Turquaz Restaurant on Bromley Road


For starters we shared a mixed hot meze @ £9.90 – borek (cheese-filled pastries – outstanding), hellim (grilled halloumi), sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) and calamari (tender squid in light, crisp batter).


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Mixed hot meze starter platter – for two @ £9.90


For main course, I had a tandir @ £13.95 – an Anatolian speciality of very slow oven-baked lamb, served on fresh, paper-thin flat bread with rice and salad. This really was special – the bread was really light and the lamb just melted in my mouth. It’ll be a challenge for me to try something different on Turquaz’s menu next time, having been thoroughly spoilt by this divine lamb dish.


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Lamb tandir – slow cooked lamb with fresh flat bread


K had lamb guvec @ £11.95 – a traditional Turkish casserole with onions, peppers, aubergines, mushrooms, tomatoes and a blend of spices with lamb cooked in a clay pot (disappointingly bland; not in the same league as the tandir).


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Lamb guvec


Along with a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay dry white wine @ £16.50 (the wine selection was limited) and a bottle of Efes beer @ £4.50, our total bill for two came to £55.80, excluding service – very good value.

The verdict: Generous food portions, fab staff and great food. The belly dancer was a really good dancer and got the odd customer up to dance and even the waiters too. This light-hearted entertainment is what makes Turquaz a bit different, although K felt it was bordering on the atmosphere of a package holiday hotel with in-house entertainment.

My only slight regret was that I didn’t resist the complimentary olives and fresh warm Turkish bread that were brought to the table on our arrival (they *were* gorgeous). I was then too full to eat all of my main course. Possibly a lesson learnt for next time. But probably not…


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 163 Bromley Road, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 2NZ
~ Tel: 020 8697 4545
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Turquaz website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Turquaz food
~ Location: Turquaz map


RELATED LINKS
More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ La Pizzeria Italiana – top Italian restaurant
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen


Turquaz on Urbanspoon

Turkish Kitchen – Catford

We don’t eat a lot of take-aways (honest) but this week we’ve had two. Both Turkish. Both ordered through Just Eat. And both possibly from the same people as it turns out (I only happened to notice that Pide and Turkish Kitchen have next-door addresses when writing this blog post).

So, it’s a Tuesday night and we fancy some Turkish meze type sharing food. Turkish Kitchen fits the bill.


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Turkish Kitchen meze – grilled lamb kebab, sucuk, borek, halim, falafel


We order:
Starters
~ Sucuk – Turkish garlic sausage @ £3.75
~ Borek – deep fried filo pastry filed with creamy Turkish cheese + parsley @ £3.55
~ Hellim (halloumi) – Cyprus cheese, charcoal grilled @ £3.95
~ Falafel – pan-fried balls of ground chick-peas, garlic, onions, celery, dill and parsley, served with hummus @ £3.45

Mains
~ Incik Guvec – lamb chunks stewed for hours in spices + vegetable sauce to give a soft delicate texture, served with rice @ £9.45
~ Iskender Kebab Izgara – charcoal grilled lamb fillet cubes served with butter coated homemade bread with yogurt + special Anatolian sauce, topped with drizzled butter @ £9.45


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Slow stewed lamb – Incik Guvec


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Mixed salad


The Turkish mixed salad was something else. I defy anyone who claims not to like salad, to dislike this mix of leaves, hummus, olives, cous cous, etc.

All good quality, tasty fresh food and reasonably priced.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Turkish
~ Address: 15 Catford Hill, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4NU
~ Tel: 020 8613 9370
~ Nearest station: Catford, Catford Bridge
~ Website: Turkish Kitchen website
~ Menu on Just Eat: Turkish Kitchen menu
~ Photos on flickr: images of Turkish Kitchen food
~ Location: Turkish Kitchen map


RELATED LINKS

More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ El Poco Mexico
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Mekan
~ Sapporo Ichiban


Turkish Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Pide – Grandfather of pizza

Turkish pide is the original pizza so the story goes: an Italian misheard an Ottoman sailor whose mouth was full of the stuff and it became known as pizza. Apparently.

Who knows if there’s any truth in the tale. More importantly, who cares. An interesting alternative to pizza (oval shaped bread base instead of round, with Turkish food toppings) our experience was a good one.


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from a “traditional Anatolian recipe dating back thousands of years”


We were excited to discover PIDE on Just Eat on Sunday evening. We both love Turkish food and fancied something easy like pizza, so – a perfect combination.

There’s a deal for three pides for £16.95 at the mo, and the selection certainly doesn’t resemble your average pizza menu. We chose:

~ Mantar – Mushrooms, tomato puree, onions, garlic, olive oil, cheddar, mozzarella cheese and dried red basil
~ Peynir – Kashar cheese, feta cheese, mozzarella, onions, fresh mint, parsley + tomatoes
~ Meatballs – Lamb meatballs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, parsley, cheddar + mozzarella cheese


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Mantar pide (mushroom)


I absolutely love mushrooms, they’re one of my favourite foods. There was nothing disappointing about this mantar pide at all. But it was the least exciting of the three.


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Peynir pide – cheesy kashar + feta with fresh mint leaves


You could say the peynir pide is a Turkish take on a cheese feast but with its contrasting bitter cheese and fresh mint leaf flavours, it was original. And amazing.


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Lamb meatballs pide

Succulent spicy lamb meatballs in a tomato-ey sauce. Need I say more?

Go on, give it a try.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Turkish, pizza
~ Address: 15a Catford Hill, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4NU
~ Tel: 020 8690 0543
~ Nearest station: Catford, Catford Bridge
~ Website + menus: Pide website
~ Pide on Just Eat: PIDE on Just Eat
~ Photos on flickr: images of Pide food
~ Location: Pide map


RELATED LINKS

More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ El Poco Mexico
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Mekan
~ Sapporo Ichiban


Pide on Urbanspoon

Fora Turkish restaurant – City branch

So I’m going to be spending a lot of time in and around EC3 – a part of London that’s relatively unknown to me, and is shouting out to be properly explored.

And going out for a Turkish/ Mediterranean lunch with my new buddy is a sure way to my heart. Or to getting my *sincere* approval at least.

On Tuesday lunchtime, we went to Fora on Houndsditch. And by the end of the hour (13:30) the restaurant was stuffed full. As were we.

The ‘City menu’ (two courses @ £10.95) was too good a deal to miss, with starter choices such as:
~ borek (filo pastry parcels filled with spinach and feta cheese)
~ taboulleh (parsley salad with mint, cracked wheat and tomatoes)
~ cacik (yoghurt with chopped cucumbers)
~ imam bayildi (aubergine with tomatoes and peppers, chickpeas + fresh tomato sauce)

And main course choices:
~ chicken shish
~ adana kofte (marinated lamb minced and mixed with herbs and grilled on skewer slightly spicy, served with rice and vegetables)
~ lamb casserole
~ sebze guvec (mixed vegetables, potatoes, aubergines, peppers, green beans, tomatoes with rice)
~ mousakka (either meat or veg)
~ chicken kofte (skewers)
~ chicken guvec (chicken with mixed veg etc, with rice)
~ salmon pasta


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Borek starter – three pastries, a large starter portion


Homing in my old favourite, borek (normally £4.95 off the a la carte menu) this was served as a substantial starter portion of three pastries, made of light flaky pastry, packed with feta and spinach (spot on).

For mains, the adana kofte (normally £10.45 off the a la carte menu) – marinated, spicy minced lamb mixed with herbs and grilled on skewers, served with rice, mixed vegetables, and a spicy sauce – was incredibly good (perfectly spiced) and, being such a large portion, very filling.


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Lamb kofte – two large skewers


C had vegetable moussaka (normally £9.95 off the a la carte menu) packed full of veggie layers and tomato juices, with a grilled, lightly burnt top (just as it should be).


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Veggie moussaka


Somehow we forced down a kazandibi, upside down milk pudding with a caramelised top coated in cinnamon with hazelnuts @ £4.25, shared between us:


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Milk pudding – set solid like an egg custard


Fora makes for an impressive lunch outing; one for special occasions that won’t break the bank.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Turkish, Mediterranean
~ Address: 34-36 Houndsditch, City, London
~ Postcode: EC3A 7DB
~ Tel: 020 7626 2222
~ Nearest stations: Aldgate, Liverpool Street (mainline)
~ Website + menus: Fora website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Fora food
~ Location: Fora map


RELATED LINKS
More Spitalfields dining:
~ Fora – Mediterranean restaurant, City branch
~ Kastner & Ovens – great salad selection
~ Mama Thai – Indian + Thai take-away curries + noodles
~ Pizza Union – stonebaked pizza, Spitalfields


Fora Restaurant on Urbanspoon