Modern Turkish Food in Central London
The difficult second chapter. How do you follow up your first success? Can you live up to expectations when your first go-round was so well received? I’m not 100% sure whether I’ve managed to ever recapture my first working accolades. Hotshot turned grizzled vet, without so much as a momentary pause.
So Selin Kiazim finds herself after the success of her first London outpost, Oklava. It received both critical acclaim and strong praise from those with hungry bellies tucking into pides and sharing plates. I might even still have a soft spot for that cauliflower from Ms. Kiazim’s Shoreditch outpost.
Modern Turkish food in London is still something of a niche market. There are lots of wonderful, rough and ready Ocakbasi (open grill) restaurants, like the essential Mangal 1 in Dalston. But the kind of restaurant, in the vein of Oklava, trying to refine Turkish food, is still somewhat of a rarity.
Step in Kyseri. Trickily titled one step from Kayseri, the Industrial Turkish locale, it is fortunately easily located. A short summer’s day bumble down from Tottenham Court Road in Fitzrovia. It’s a small, bright safe haven from the noise and commotion off the main road. Large windows let the sunlight stream into the small dining room, a cheery alternative to the glum building works that buzz around the Google Store.
The key difference that sets Oklava and Kyseri apart is that it might be one of few London restaurants that don’t have a small plate concept. No, no “we recommend 3-4 plates per person” concept talk. Just give me some nibbles while I wait for a starter and a main. The simple way we’ve done it for years. It might even catch on.
We do, however, share an awful lot for the sake of ‘sampling the goods’. It’s all part of the trials of being a food blogger, I guess. An unceremonious plate of thin pastirma, an air-dried beef are rich and deep with an almost truffle-like earthiness. They taste far better than they look, consider them fortunate. More befitting of dinner table chic is the black sea fondue. An oozing pan of cheese, golden blistered with two wedges of hellim bread begging to be dunked. If you’re using cheese to give body to bread, that you intend to dunk in cheese, you deeply care about me. With the recent fondue craze, these are well timed and Insta-worthy.
This being lunch, we merely shared a bowl of pasta because it sounds far too good to pass up. Not to jump ahead, but it overachieved on its promise. A pan of four small bundles of pinched together pasta, like a ruff and ready tortellini. The thin-with-a-bite pasta opens up to a beautiful warming spiced beef with the sourness of the fruit. It provides the perfect scope to the chili butter, made thick with yogurt and flecks of oregano and an inside note from fennel. It’s like someone’s Turkish grandma went on a tour of Italy and discovered heavily fenneled Italian sausage and the joys of cannelloni. She took it home but only remembered the gist, filling in the blanks with Turkish charm.
Mains are really what stands apart from the Shoreditch venture. A large plate with 3 thick wedges of duck, blushing presumably at their nakedness. Ready to be coated with a glossy and sweat grape molasses and a sauce that has almost a marmite tang of saltiness. A dainty duck leg gozleme with duck pate atop comes as a side. It’s not quite the joy of gozleme on the Kingsland Road at 5am but it is a welcome accompaniment to the main event.
This being their soft opening there are a few hiccups in pacing. The gap between the manti and the mains is too long and it’s a little tricky to attract our waiter’s attention but these are small kinks as service gets worked out day 1. The food though, much like Oklava, is well worth a visit and standards haven’t drop. It would make a great date spot if you’re aiming to impress. However, the price tag on mains (£24ish) and less emphasis on sharing mean it’s potentially not as suitable for a trip with mates as Oklava and make it slightly easier to run up a bill.
With an interesting array of wines from climbs such as Greece, Turkey and Azerbaijan, it’s not just the food that’s a departure from the London norm. Like it’s sister restaurant, Kyseri offers something that you can’t get across the rest of London: food that’s as interesting as it is greedily enjoyed. If this is Kiazim’s second act, can we request a hattrick?
Big Plates aren't always better
More of the same brilliant cooking from Selin Kiazim. Elegant dishes and interesting takes on cooking from Turkish Cyprian roots. Between the less intimate setting and the slightly higher price point of the main dishes, it sets a more formal tone to Oklava but it’s still a welcome addition to the Fitzrovia set.