Dalston’s streets are teaming with Turkish takeaways and restaurants. This is the area of London that saw incredible community spirit in the face of the bleak weeks of riots. The Turkish community and their friends lined the streets forming a human barricade against the rioters, protecting their livelihoods from destruction. In light of this heroic effort in such bitter times, Dalstonites and East Londoners flocked to Turkish businesses in a community effort to give something back and say thank you. Though I was not there to witness this, I can only imagine it to have been a very emotional period and the effects are lasting as the Turkish eateries continue to thrive.
I have been lucky enough to get a job with my dream company, a UK specialist food retailer based in London. I stayed with my cousin in Dalston last week hence there was many an opportunity to explore the local hubs. Deciding between the many Turkish restaurants in the area, all with fantastic food and great value, proved somewhat of a challenge for my cousin Adam and his girlfriend Lara. They have really established relationships with many of the local businesses and decided that one place in particular stood out.. 19 Numara Bos Cirrik II on Stoke Newington Road.
We wandered in from the freezing cold to a small room buzzing with Turkish families and young East Londoners enjoying the food the was being cooked up on a large open grill in the corner. Adam, having been many a time before, straight away ordered a platter of bread similar to nan bread but slightly crispier, and had the extra treat of meat drippings added.. Very naughty but totally delicious! This was served with refreshing Cacik!
I was warned that starters were not necessary due to the vast portion sizes, so I resisted temptation and went for a Iskender Kebab which consisted of minced lamb grilled on the BBQ snuggly wrapped in more of the meat dripping bread resting on a bed of Iskender yoghurt sauce. This heavy dish was accompanied with complimentary side salads (very oniony but a nice fruity and refreshing addition to the heavy main). So the choice to skip a starter was definitely wise! My cousin went for the mixed grill and his lamb was exceptionally cooked until very tender. We ploughed through the huge dishes which were so good that we kept eating and finding new pockets in our stomachs to fill!
This was followed by a Turkish tea served in a delightful little glass and with sugar added became sweet but a refreshing ending to a heavy meal.
I wandered over to the grill to have a nosy as usual, and I was told by the chef to sit down on a stool in front of the bar whilst he talked me through the process that he mastered so well.. he even showed me how he gave the bread that extra flavour and texture, quickly wrapping the large flat pieces around the grilling kebabs so that it soaked up some of the juices. Not for the faint hearted! However, for those with a smaller appetite, the starters and salads looked delicious and a sharing feast could definitely be created if that is more your cup of tea.
So in sum, great food, fantastic value and wonderful people.. this may turn into a weekly cuisine for me!