Likya Ocakbasi, Golders Green
I've ummed and ahhed over writing up this post as my accompanying photography is even poorer than usual, but ultimately I decided I couldn't keep Likya to myself. Living in North London, we are pretty spoilt for choice with Turkish restaurants, but this is my favourite of them all. Likya uses a traditional open charcoal grill (Ocakbasi) and serves a very wide selection of incredibly delicious grilled meats - and to a lesser extent, fish - both in its restaurant and as a take away. The take away shish kebabs are to die for and obviously in a completely different league to your standard post-night out greasy kebab filled with mystery meat - in fact they even won an award recently for them. But anyway, today I want to tell you about the restaurant part:
Golders Green is a real melting pot, aside from the obvious Jewish prevalence, and if you walk down Golders Green Road at night during any time of year you will spot that it has a very strong cafe culture. Even in midwinter, hardy Israelis and Europeans will be happily sat outside pavement cafes drinking coffee and eating ice cream or smoking shisha until late. Restaurants too are packed until very late in the evening, so by strolling into Likya at 9pm on a Thursday we were very lucky to nab a table after a 15 minute wait. It's a decent sized restaurant with about 50 covers I'd say, but I really would recommend booking as its always rammed.
The staff bring flatbread, normal bread, a yoghurt based dip and a tomatoey chilli dip whilst you look at the menu. We ordered 'Arnavut Cigeri' which is diced lambs liver and a Muska Boregi, pastry filled with feta and parsley, to start. I know it's not up everyone's street, but I'm a big fan of offal, yet the lamb's liver did not really do it for me this time. It was overcooked, which was a massive shame. I ate it all anyway as the flavour was still tasty and I was very hungry indeed after a day of only one Slimfast. The little cheesy pastry was really good though - a cross between an empanada and spanakopita I suppose. Previously, I have also had the falafel which were really good and much much better than the falafel at Solly's up the road which everyone raves about but I find to be overpriced and meh.
Onto mains, and after intense discussion with our waiter we settled on a lamb shish in yoghurt sauce and a Ezmeli kebab which is apparently their house special. The lamb shish was as good as ever, served slightly pink but with the delicious charred crust that is essential for flavour. The yoghurt sauce was gently flavoured with butter and tomato, so the overall effect was rather like a Middle Eastern tikka masala (which is a good thing)! The house special turned out to be a fancy kind of kofte in a fragrant tomato sauce, which I'd guess was flavoured with pomegranate molasses and lots of earthy spices but I'm afraid I'm not really doing it justice and my pictures certainly don't either. Both dishes took us straight back to a Turkish holiday, a feeling which was slightly marred only by our very accommodating waiter giving me some Ayran to try after I commented on the number of people drinking a white coloured drink - turns out it's a diluted yoghurt drink with huge amounts of salt in - I didn't get it at all and will be firmly sticking with the lovely Turkish wines in future. If anyone else is into eating weird bits of meat, I can also highly recommend the Uykuluk (grilled lamb sweetbreads*) which are one of the best things I've eaten here, an obscene portion of them arriving creamy, smooth and with just a hint of a wobble. Yum.
The damage this visit was about £45 for two courses each and a bottle of wine; you can't say fairer than that.
*Sweetbreads are as I'm sure you know, not the testicles of any animal, but a harmless little gland, which also sounds less than appetising but I promise is very nice to eat.