Damascus Chef pop-up at the Good Hope cafe – Hither Green SE13

Souq meze with a personal touch

The Damascus Chef (Abdullah Alawayed) and his partner host Syrian meze dinners at various locations in South London. Find out about their current pop-up events on the Eventbright website where you can reserve places. It’s currently £23.95 for adults or half-price for children and you pay locally, at the end of the meal.

We went to the ‘Souq meze’ pop-up at the Good Hope cafe, Hither Green (an award-winning community cafe run by the ForJimmy charity) on Friday night and joined the 6.30pm sitting (on Friday evenings there are 8.30pm sittings too).

Arriving early, the hostess welcomed us excitedly, and talked enthusiastically about the careful preparation that goes into making the dishes on this menu. Which rubs off on customers and makes for a good atmosphere in this small, cosy space, where candle-lit tables were decorated with pomegranate seeds at each place setting.

 

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Meze with fresh bread to share

Top l-r: Fool mudamas bi humous (fava beans crushed with chickpeas, chopped tomato, parsley, olive oil, lemon + cumin) and humous (crushed chickpeas blended with olive oil, tahini, cumin + garlic)
front l-r: Mutabbel (flame-grilled aubergine infused with yoghurt, tahini, garlic + cumin) and lebneh (thick, canvas-strung cows’ yoghurt)

 

We ordered a bottle of Rioja (@ about £16.00 – very reasonably priced and very nice too) and were blown away by the fresh tastiness of the meze starters. The food is familiar as middle-eastern but with a specific Syrian style – for example, humous is made with a ratio of more chickpeas to tahini, and is thicker and creamier for it. The mutabbel (aubergine dip) was absolutely gorgeous and the lebneh (really thick, creamy yoghurt) was a winner too. Shared starters are served with a variety of fresh breads and are limitless (if you dare).

Next came this shurbat adas, a traditional Syrian lentil soup with coriander seeds and cumin:

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Lentil soup

 

For main course, there was a selection of three dishes (we’d had to choose our main course in advance, when reserving):

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Kawaj – Levantine courgette, aubergine and green pepper casseroled in tomato sauce, sauteed onion, garlic and fresh coriander; topped with fresh chives and served with yoghurt and cucumber, pomegranates, walnuts, pine-nuts + fresh tabouleh

 

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Syrian lamb stew – Diced organic leg of lamb stewed with freekeh (smoked green wheat) infused with pine kernels, cashews, pistachios, almonds, green peas + raisins, served with optional yoghurt + cucumber (not pictured) + fresh tabouleh

I had this lamb stew. It tasted as though it had been slow-cooked and was steeped in many flavours. Really good.

 

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Jaj bil muhammara – Chicken thigh braised with lemon, coriander + pomegranate syrup, on a bed of crushed mild chilli muhammara, served with walnuts, yoghurt + cucumber, and tabouleh salad

 

For dessert, the choice was baklawa with ice-cream, or ice-cream with watermelon. I had baklawa:

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Jiljil wa hab ruman – Traditional filo pastry baklawa made with flour, syrup, honey, butter, egg white + pistachio, served with ice cream. Laden with fresh mint, pomegranates + pistachios.

 

For the fifth and final chai course, we had a choice of fresh mint, cardamom or cinnamon + walnut.

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Chai – cinnamon + walnut tea

 

The verdict: Good value for such a freshly prepared, unique and tasty banquet. The hosting couple put their heart and soul into making this dining experience enjoyable and relaxing for customers – the kind of personal touch that you don’t easily find in high-street restaurants. And the choice of venue for this pop-up makes it even more worthwhile. Eat, drink and be very merry – your money goes to good places.

 

Pop-up info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Syrian, middle-eastern
– Location: venues vary – this was at the Good Hope cafe, 216 Hither Green Lane, London, SE13 6RT
– Contact: chef@damascuschef.com
– Website + menus: Damascus Chef website
– Damascus Chef events (reserve places): Eventbright website
– Photos of Damascus Chef: Damascus Chef on flickr

Rox Burger – Lewisham SE13

Really good restaurants might be in short supply in Lewisham – Rox Burger is among the few leading the way.

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Rox Burger  – step inside off the Lee High Road

 

Winner of New Openings’ “London’s best burger” competition in March 2016, Rox Burger was awarded “best rated burger in the UK” in 2015 by TripAdvisor (and currently ranks #32 of 17,000+ restaurants in London as of June 2016). No mean feat. It was time to check it out for ourselves.

With a small entrance on the indistinct Lee High Road, you could easily pass by and miss it, as I did.

 

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Up the spiral staircase – special mezzanine area for the six of us

 

On arrival, our table for six is ready – it’s on the mezzanine, accessible by a spiral stairway. A great use of limited space, we welcome the privacy of having our own little dining room and – as there are two kids in our party – the freedom to move about in the space.

 

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Ground floor restaurant – viewed from mezzanine

 

We order drinks including some Kernel pale ales @ £4.90 a bottle and a small margarita @ £6.50, and a variety of burgers including the Rox Bacon – handmade burger with cheese, bacon, egg, jalapeno pepper, mayo in a brioche bun @ £8.95, and a veggie portobello mushroom – with cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, mayo in a brioche bun @ £6.00, along with two types of chips: sweet potato fries @ £3.20 and Rox fries with cheese and oregano @ £3.20.

 

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Burger menu  – click on image to enlarge

 

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Drinks menu – wines, craft beers, cocktails and more

 

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Rox bacon burger –  with cheese, bacon, fried egg + jalapeno pepper

 

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Portobello mushroom – with cheese, lettuce, tomato + grilled onions

 

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Another Rox bacon – in a brioche bun

 

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L: sweet potato fries @ £3.20, R: Rox fries with cheese + oregano @ £3.20

 

Rox Burger pride themselves on only using fresh ingredients, locally sourced – nothing’s frozen. The burger patty was really juicy and the bacon and egg were crispy. It’s a really good burger with interestingly seasoned chips too (oregano and finely grated cheese) – good for a change.

 

The verdict: Good service, pleasing use of space with quirky ‘home made’ furnishings (like the cushioned-pallet benches we sat on, on the mezzanine) and fine quality burgers. Probably all the more impressive for being in this part of Lewisham, where good eating establishments are a novelty.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Burgers
– Address: 82 Lee High Rd, London
– Postcode: SE13 5PT
– Nearest station: Lewisham
– Website + menus: Rox Burger website
– Photos on flickr: Rox Burger images
– Location: Rox Burger map

 

Rox Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Saigon Cafe – Catford, SE6

Vietnamese cafe with bring your own booze in upcoming Catford, South East London

While Saigon Foods cafe has a ‘bring your own booze’ policy (as they’re not licensed to serve alcohol) that keeps costs down, we chose to ‘take-away’ the other evening after work, and relax at home.

 

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Summer rolls – rice paper wraps two rolls @ £4.00

 

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Bo la lot – grilled beef in leaves with rice noodles and salad @ £7.85
 

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Bo la lot – minced beef filling

 

We ordered summer rolls – rice paper wraps with rice vermicelli, lettuce and herbs with a peanut sauce, Vietnamese spring rolls (pork and prawn rolls which were unfortunately omitted), bo la lot minced beef in betel leaves (vine leaves) with rice vermicelli, mixed salad, Vietnamese dressing with chillis and peanuts (the beef leaves and sauce were very tasty), and a chicken pho – flat rice noodles in broth served with fresh vegetables, herbs and seasoning sauces (very healthy although – aside from the aromatic basil leaves – slightly lacking in flavour).

 
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Chicken pho – rice noodles in Vietnamese broth @ £7.85
 

This was a healthy meal made from fresh ingredients – plenty enough for two – and really good value given I had change out of £20.00! I can imagine that this food would taste even better served fresh in the restaurant and intend to visit again soon.

 

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Inside Saigon Foods cafe

 

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Menu at Saigon Foods cafe, Catford

 

The verdict: Cheap, cheerful and healthy. And something a bit different for Catford.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Vietnamese, BYOB
~ Address: 24 Catford Broadway, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SN
~ Nearest stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Saigon Cafe website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Saigon Cafe
~ Location: Saigon Cafe map

 

Saigon Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Station Hotel – Gastro pub in SE London, SE13

Gastro pub and hotel in Lewisham Borough

Within spitting distance of Hither Green rail station in the Lewisham Borough, The Station Hotel is a Redcomb pub – a small group of traditional British ‘country pub’ style pubs – founded in 2009, with the aim of serving “simple, honest, fresh food, well kept ales with friendly and engaging service, set in a stylish environment”.

Our visit last night (a Friday evening) was an early birthday celebration for T. We’ve drunk in the bar at this pub a few times but it was my first time eating here – the food was great and reasonably priced for good quality, carefully sourced ingredients.

For starters, we shared a mixed mezze board of houmus, marinated tomatoes, feta and olives, cream cheese stuffed peppers, tzatziki falafel, and flatbread.

 

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Mezze board – shared starter @ £11.95

 

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Box baked camembert – infused with rosemary, thyme and garlic with red onion marmalade and crusty bread @ £9.95

 

For main course, K had a Station burger; T had roasted sea trout and I had beer battered fish and chips (all very good).

 

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Station burger – short rib from English herds, brioche bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion, relish, cheddar, onion rings and skinny fries @ £12.95

 

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Beer battered sustainable North Sea fish, chunky chips, crushed minted peas and homemade tartar sauce @ £12.95

 

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Roasted Sea trout – lemon + thyme mash, creamed leeks + chives, caper, chive + tomato vinaigrette @ £14.25

 

The verdict:Good honest food, along with reasonably priced drinks (a bottle of Chenin Viognier dry white wine was £20) our total bill for four came to £175.75 excluding service. One of the better pubs in Lewisham. I’ll be back.

 

Pub dining info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: pub
~ Address: 14 Staplehurst Road, Hither Green, London
~ Postcode: SE13 5NB
~ Nearest station: Hither Green
~ Website + menus: The Station Hotel website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Station Hotel food
~ Location: Station Hotel map

 

The Station Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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

 
Click to add a blog post for Ayasofya on Zomato

Catford Constitutional Club – craft beers + gastropub food

It’s already 18 months since Antic London’s pub presence in Catford moved from the Catford Bridge Tavern and into the derelict premises of the former Catford Conservative Club.

 

Catford Conservative Club - derelict in 2013
Catford Conservative Club – re-opened as a pub in 2013 having been vacant for 20 years

 

That was then…
While the Antic team continued to serve a good range of craft beers and excellent gastropub food at the Catford Constitutional Club (CCC) from the start, the space was – despite their best cleaning efforts – run-down and grubby to say the least (unsurprisingly, having been empty for 20 years). Not shabby-chic, just shabby. And still with pictures of Conservative ministers and snooker champions on the walls, just as it was when it was left vacant by the old conservative club.

All masked in a mouldy, mildewy smell that had built up over a long time and doesn’t just disappear overnight (off-putting when dining despite the excellent gastropub food).

 

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From the restaurant side of the room – small bar hatch to the left; old Conservative pictures on rear wall; nice bunting hides some of the grubbiness, May 2014

 

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Cosy at Christmas – the restaurant one year on, Dec 2014

 

But this is now…
Eighteen months on, the CCC feels lived in again – a homely pub that you *want* to visit. And the large beer garden with its pot plants and paintings is a punter-pleaser for the warm, summer days. It’s a real reflection on the pub’s team that they’ve worked so hard to make the CCC an attractive and appealing space in which you can relax comfortably over a craft beer or two and enjoy a good meal.

On our most recent visit to the CCC (both the bar and restaurant) we were unable to stray from our old favourites: a charcuterie sharing platter for starters, a burger for K and fish for me.

 

Here’s letting the pictures do the talking:
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Scotch egg @ £3.00 – you can’t eat at the CCC without having a Scotch egg. You just can’t. And they’re big enough to share.

 

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Starter: Charcuterie board @ £8.00 – air dried pork collar, smoked beef brisket, fennel salami, tomato chutney, bread + butter

 

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Starter: Roast pumpkin + chilli soup @ £4.75 – a winter warmer

 

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Starter: Whole box baked camembert with confit of garlic, thyme, apple + tomato chutney and bread @ £10.50

 

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Mains: Sea Trout @ £11.95 – with baby gem + samphire salad, Jersey royals, warm radishes, dill creme fraiche

 

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Mains: Hake @ £11.95 – with pink fir apple potatoes, kale, brown shrimp + caper butter

 

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Mains: Sea trout @ £11.95 – served with stem broccoli + lentils

 

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Sunday roast – lamb, Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese, mint sauce @ £12.75

 

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Mains: Beef burger + posh chips @ £10.75 – burger with smoked bacon, smoked cheddar + relish in a brioche bun with ‘posh chips’ (fries with parmesan, smoked salt + truffle oil)

 

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Mains: Beef burger + posh chips – so good K’s eaten this [more than] twice

 

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Beef burger, regular skinny fries goat’s cheese instead of cheddar @ £10.50

 

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Mains: Slow-roast brisket @ £12.75 – with smoked bacon, baby onions, Brussel sprouts + creamed celeriac

 

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Mains: Courgette beetroot + ricotta salad @ £9.00

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Mains: Sausage and mash @ £7.00

 

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Mains: Pork belly @ £12

 

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Dessert: Elderflower jelly + ice-cream @ £4.60

 

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Dessert: Sticky toffee pudding @ £4.75 – with toffee sauce + clotted cream

 

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Dessert: ice-cream union @ £4.00 – Christmas pudding, peanut butter and salted caramel

 

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Sample menu – as of 19 June 2015

 

The verdict: Excellent food and great range of craft beers + ciders that changes all the time. The team’s done a great job of cleaning up an old vacant building and turning it into a homely pub. Shame it’s likely to close in 2016 as part of Lewisham Borough Council’s plans to redevelop Catford Broadway (shopping area) which is needed. But here’s hoping the Antic team will move into another new space and make that a homely watering hole too..

 

Catford. Let’s not forget the cat
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Mieeww…

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: British, gastropub food, real ales + ciders
~ Address: Catford Broadway, Catford, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SP
~ Tel: 020 8613 7188
~ Nearest rail stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Catford Constitutional Club website + Antic London website
~ Photos on flickr: My Catford Constitutional Club photos
~ Location: Catford Constitutional Club map

 

Click to add a blog post for Catford Constitutional Club on Zomato

 

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