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

 

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

 

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

La Pizzeria Italiana – Catford

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Star pizza, star restaurant


There’s no nice way of putting this: La Pizzeria Italiana looks rough from outside. And that’s because it’s at the base of Eros House, a drab concrete tower in Catford.

But stick with me here, it’ll be worth your while…


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Eros House – RIBA’s London architecture medal, 1962


This grade II listed building was awarded a ‘London architecture medal’ by RIBA in 1962, and given a ‘civic trust award’ in 1964 (an acknowledgement of the new, brutalist, concrete-slab architecture of the time?). The concrete is textured to look like wood and – being almost as iconic as the Catford cat – you might even grow to love it in time.

All I’m saying is don’t let first appearances fool you.


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Come this way – just grin and bear it a moment more…


The approach to La Pizzeria Italiana may not be appealing. But peer in through the doorway and it’s a different matter: it’s a small restaurant (about 50 covers) with frescoes of an Italian landscape and Venetian waterways. A mobile of teacups and white feather boas hangs centre-stage from a fabric ceiling; all really inviting and just that little bit different.


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Tea cups, feather boas, soft lighting + Italian hospitality


Warmly acknowledged the moment we stepped inside, our waitress was really hospitable and helpful. The patron (from Bologna) came over several times to make sure we were comfortable, and to let us know we could go ‘off menu’ (“Don’t be shy!” were his exact words) – all dishes are freshly cooked to order and can easily be adapted to individual preference.


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Admiring the sea view, Venetian waterways, inside La Pizzeria Italiana


It was a hot evening at the end of the working week and some cold bubbles were in order. A bottle of prosecco arrived, served in a solid rubber bag filled with iced water – a practical alternative to a space-consuming wine bucket.

Despite being hidden from the street, this intimate restaurant was busy, doing a good turnover of tables. And it attracted all types of clientele: we noted a group of senior citizens, a young couple, a party of three lads (in their twenties), a couple of families with very young children, and a couple of middle aged couples (we were one of them and in case you’re wondering, anyone over 35 qualifies as middle aged).

If their target market is anyone who enjoys fine quality pizza and food in a comfortable, relaxed environment then they look to be on target. That market is diverse, and all looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. You’d be hard pressed not to feel comfortable here.


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Clockwise: Hand grenade style Prosecco bottle, Insalata Tricolore, Caprina pizza, antipasto


La Pizzeria Italiana was first recommended to me in August 2013 by CaT here on LardButty, and I’m seriously gutted that it took me nearly a year to visit. Still, I’ve been twice in my first week so I think that says something (aside from I’m greedy).

We are committed to working our way through the menu, and have found that the pizzas are outstanding (*proper* Italian, thin crust pizzas) and everything’s freshly prepared. Given the excellent food quality, it’s also reasonably priced.

So far, LardButty can recommend:

~ Insalata Tricolore – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil + avocado starter salad @ £5.50
~ Antipasto Miso All’ Italiana – Italian cured meats + roast vegetables @ £7.50
~ Caprina pizza – Mozzarella, goats cheese, olives, red onions, basil + fresh chopped tomatoes @ £9.50 with extra mushrooms @ £1.00
~ Lasagna Al Forno – fresh pasta layers, Bolognese, Béchamel and parmesan @ £8.95

~ Tomatoey meatballs – starter @ £4.95
~ Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95


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Meatball starter @ £4.95


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Parmagiana – baked aubergine starter @ £4.95


~ Quattro Stagioni – four seasons pizza with Mozzarella, tomato, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms + spinach @ £9.00

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Four seasons pizza @ £9.00


~ and last but by no means least: the star special pizza @ £11.50

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Star pizza – choose 5 ingredients/toppings for each ‘corner’


This star shaped pizza had real novelty value, while also bearing a different tasty treat in every corner. My five toppings were anchovy, mushroom, chilli, dolcelatte, and olives, with loads of fresh salad.

The verdict: Don’t rush me, I haven’t worked my way through *all* the menu yet (It’s amazing. Is La Pizzeria Italiana still one of Catford’s best kept secrets? shhhhhh….)


Still working through the menu:

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Whitebait starter @ £5.95

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Calamari starter with tartar sauce @ £6.95 (squid so fresh it melts in your mouth)

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Fish stew starter @ £4.95

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Avocado and walnut salad starter @ £4.95

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Avocado al forno starter @ £4.95 – baked avocado

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Calzone Napoletano – Mozzarella, tomato, tuna, capers, anchovies, olives + ricotta @ £8.95 (superb)

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Napoletana with extra mushrooms @ £8.50 + £1.00

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Quattro Formaggi with extra pepperoni @ £8.50 + £1.00

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Special: fresh monkfish in tomato + sweet pepper sauce with mussels + clams @ £15.95 (as served)

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Special: fresh monkfish in tomato sauce – simply stunning, generous portion with lots of meaty fresh monkfish

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Special: fresh seabass in tomato sauce made with fresh ginger and chilli, served with potatoes and spinach @ £13.50

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Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

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Salad special: warm chicken, dolcelatte, and grapes @ £6.95

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Zabaglione @ £4.95 (divine – lovely and strong on the Marsala wine ingredient!)


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Italian
~ Address: 3 Eros House, Brownhill Road, Catford
~ Postcode: SE6 2EF
~ Tel: 020 8461 4606
~ Nearest station: Catford Bridge, Catford, Ladywell
~ Website + menus: La Pizzeria Italiana website
~ Photos on flickr: images of La Pizzeria Italiana food
~ facebook page: La Pizzeria Italiana on fb
~ Location: La Pizzeria Italiana map


RELATED LINKS
More Catford dining:
~ Catford Chippy
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Mekan – Mediterranean cuisine
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban
~ Turkish Kitchen


FourAndHalfStars


La Pizzeria Italiana on Urbanspoon

New Winner – Chinese delivery

It’s take-away time. The other night we decided to order a take-away and settled on Chinese for a change. Well, I say Chinese but New Winner’s menu is more Chinese-come-Thai-come-Asian-fusion.

Our Chinese banquet and carpet picnic began with:
~ Vegetarian spring rolls @ £1.90
~ Sesame prawn toast @ £4.10
~ Chicken satay on skewers with onion, cucumber + special satay sauce @ 4.20
~ Tod mun Thai fishcakes @ £4.30
~ Aromatic crispy duck (a quarter) with 6 pancakes, cucumber, spring onion, and hoi sin sauce @ £7.00


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Tod mun Thai fishcakes, seseame prawn toast, chicken satay


Chinese cuisine is possibly my least favourite but I do love crispy duck pancakes when done properly. And these didn’t disappoint (the duck was roasted and crispy with little trace of fat, pancakes were paper thin and light, and the hoi sin sauce was great). The tod mun fishcakes weren’t the best I’ve ever tasted but they weren’t bad by any means.


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Crispy duck pancakes – crispy, shredded duck with a great hoi sin sauce


For main course, K chose beef in black bean sauce with green peppers (tender beef stir fried in a special black bean paste with onion, pepper and carrot) @ £4.40 and mushroom egg fried rice @ £3.40, while I had vegetarian Thai green curry (stuffed full of crispy tofu, water chestnut, Chinese mushrooms, carrot and bamboo shoots) @ £3.80 with steamed white rice @ £2.20.


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Thai green curry with tofu + veggies


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Beef in black bean sauce + Thai green tofu curry


Haute cuisine this aint. But for a good value, convenient and *not overly unhealthy* Chinese delivery option, New Winner was a hit. We’ll order again, not frequently. But we’ll be back.


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Chinese, Asian
~ Address: 278 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London
~ Postcode: SE13 6JZ
~ Tel: 020 8690 7614
~ Website + menus: New Winner website
~ Photos on flickr: images of New Winner food
~ Location: New Winner map
~ Delivery through: Just Eat


RELATED LINKS
More Lewisham Borough take-aways:
~ Catford Chippy
~ El Poco Mexico – eat in or take-away
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban – Japanese/sushi collections
~ Turkish Kitchen


New Winner Chinese & Thai 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