04/06/2011

Turkish Mangal, Hornchurch

The lovely Food Urchin had extolled the virtues of his local Turkish restaurant so I, always eager to find a really good place to eat near where I live, asked for the details. High Road, Hornchurch is apparently the place to be for really good Turkish food.

Life got busy for a couple of weeks, but on the Monday following my birthday, Darling Husband said he was thinking of taking me out to dinner, and did I fancy trying the Turkish place Danny had suggested? Absolutely, said I, so off we went.

Hornchurch appears to close early when it comes to restaurants. We have an Ask, a Prezzo, a Zizzi…and a few other chains that I am weary of, all of whom were shutting or shuttered before 10pm. Danny says it far better here, and expresses the frustration at homogenisation in far more colourful terms.
 

It’s only a small town, well I say town, possibly a hamlet rather than anything so grand as a town, maybe a suburb, so you don’t expect the choice to be grand but it is a bit samey. Admittedly we do have the terribly American Simply Blues, which used to be all exotic and exciting to us Brits, but now just seems to be trying a little bit too hard and I’m not sure that ‘succulent’ (their word) is the best way to describe their chicken dishes but it is decent food and not bad prices. A Carolina smoke pit it ain’t although I have to admit that this did amuse me on their website http://simplyblues.com/
 
Only the best quality Steer Beef is used, then aged and cooked to your choice.
All Steaks are Australian Free Range Beef.
We accept no liability for steaks cooked well done.


 
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Hornchurch on a drizzly Monday night. We found the place after a wrong turn, and it is so small that it’s hard to miss. It also used to be a French bistro, so that foxed me while we were looking out for it.
It is only a small place, with one side being mainly charcoal grill and a glass fronted counter, where the raw meat is displayed, forming an L shape with the grill. Wooden tables, quite close together, Turkish music being played and it looks like the typical seating add-on to a kebab shop.

 
Restaurant

It isn’t.

The food is magnificent. Tasty and spiced, hot and crispy, unctuous and rich. The bread isn’t the bought in Turkish flat sesame seeded bread that you get in most places – not that there is anything wrong with that at all – this is a yeasted dough they make themselves and then cook directly on the grill as you watch. They will happily bring you as much as you want, and you will want more than the first basket. It turns up searingly hot off the grill, and the smell is fabulous. Cue me, bread, and a pile of olives and that’s me a happy girl.
 
Once we’d gotten over the OOOH BREAD bit, we had a great struggle in choosing our food. Umming and aahing and eventually we went for what we knew, because it’s almost a test. For a hot starter I chose Humus Et Kavurma, which is houmous topped with spiced lamb. Tex chose Arnavut Cigeri, sautéed lamb’s liver in butter, caramelised onions, spices, chilli & lemon juice.

 
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Both were utterly gorgeous. The houmous was silky and smooth, and the lamb was minced, not cubed, which is how a lot of places serve it, and I’m not a fan of it that way. The meat goes cold too fast, and can get tough as it cools. This time though the meat was soft and beautifully spiced and seasoned, and oh my god so very moreish. Tex’s liver was perfect. Juicy, slightly crusted with spices and the mound of red onions underneath it were sweet, slightly caramelised but still crunchy and coated in spikes of ground sumac. As a person who does not really like liver, I could have eaten my way through that and asked for more. We had a small dish of Cacik as well – garlic, yoghurt and cucumber - because we love it. There is a case to be made here for not eating all of the tasty, tasty bread, because the mains are substantial.

 
Tex chose a mixed grill, so that we could get a taste of everything, and I chose an Iskende Kebab, which is cubes of grilled lamb, served on sliced pita, with a yoghurt and rich tomato sauce topping.

 
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I think we can safely say here that we were bowled over by just how good the meat was. We have eaten in a lot of Turkish places, many in Northern Cyprus, and this was every bit as good, if not better. Everything was very well seasoned, and so very flavourful. There and then we decided that this was a place to come back to again and again. The meat was so tender, and if I were told that I could only ever eat chicken wings at this place I would be happy. Juicy meat, crispy skin and spices that didn’t overwhelm at all. Lamb chops cooked to utter crisp fatted perfection. More of the same please! The salad that came with it was fresh and crispy, with lots of red cabbage, gherkins and crunchy lettuce.
 
My Iskende was gorgeous. The yoghurt and the tomato sauce worked very well together, and the meat needed no knife to cut it, it just fell apart. I could have eaten the whole thing with a spoon. Next time, I am going for the chicken kebab, and then the quail, and then the wings and...and...and…

 
All in all, it’s definitely a place I would recommend to anyone, so thank you very much Danny for the tip!
 
All that, including drinks, came to £47. Okay, I know we don’t drink alcohol but even so I think that was a bargain and only a ten minute drive from home. Hurrah!

Turkish Mangal
178 High Street Hornchurch
Essex RM12 6QP
Phone: 01708 437 418

5 comments:

The Ample Cook said...

Great review and fabulous photos. Cant WAIT to try it. (I just managed to catch my dribble from hitting the keyboard ;)

May said...

That place sounds lovely. Shame Hornchurch is such a trek from SW London but will keep it in mind for when I am that end of the world.

Lisa said...

@The Ample Cook My wee cameraphone did struggle in the low light, and also we really wanted to eat, like, NOW. I was very, very pleased with how well spiced the meat was, as usually it's all or nothing and this was perfect, and zingy. :)
Definitely a keeper!

May - that is a bit of a distance! There's another excellent one in Edgware called Izgara, right by the station, should you ever be in that bit of London. I obviously need to explore the SW postcodes...

Mr Cravat said...

We were at Food Urchin Towers last weekend and this was one place we have on our list to visit. Your review means I need to visit VERY SOON. Looks and sounds stunning. I am searching for a suitable cravat as I type!

Lisa said...

Mr Cravat, we should all meet up. The Essex Massive or somesuch nonsense. I do like a man with an eye for a decent cravat.