For those who don’t know any better, the humble kebab falls well within the realm of food that should only be consumed at 4am when drunk — much like cheesy chips and a Chicken Cottage meal deal. Step off the number 29 bus, however, and you’ll enter a whole new world of cuisine that couldn’t be further away from late-night desperation food.
Yes, Green Lanes in Haringey is to Turkish food what Savile Row is to suits (without the tourists and the hefty price tag). The many restaurants offer fresh meats, impeccable service, delicious free tea and not a formica table top in sight. Following on from our more general capital-wide kebab hunt, we now focus down to the Turkish delights of London’s little Istanbul…
Gökyüzü has to be the granddaddy of all things kebab on Green Lanes, with a continually packed dining room, fierce reputation and an enviable Trip Advisor ranking. We were greeted with enough flatbread, salad and dip to feed a small family before even cracking open the menu. It’s difficult to go wrong with its great range of charcoal grills, but if you’re after a challenge, go for the Full Platter. It’s recommended for 2-3 people, but from looking at the reaction of the terrified couples who order it, that might be a slight underestimate. Booking in advance is a must if you want to avoid the scrum at the door.
Living proof that the best things come in threes, this café/restaurant/patisserie had grown into a North London institution since the launch of its mother branch in Newington Green. These days, locals flock up to Harringay for the perfect pides made in a giant clay oven, and the lahmacun, a kind of Turkish pizza, which is only £1.50 (takeaway). Its adjacent bakery also does a cracking baklava if you haven’t had enough carbs for one day.
Walking into Selale is a bit like stepping into a mythical land, with a – some might say garish, we’d say kitsch – waterfall mural, and a wonderfully mannered waiting staff led by a devilishly handsome owner. The interior is huge, with a conservatory area that allows punters to look out onto the eclectic delights of Green Lanes. The portions are similarly generous. Selale makes a mean tzatziki, and its grilled lamb shish might just be the best on the whole street.
It might be smaller and simpler than its counterparts, but what it lacks in extravagance, Hala makes up for in authenticity. As you approach, you’ll see hairnet-wearing women in the window rolling out traditional gözleme, a kind of delicious filled crepe stuffed with spinach, potato, mince and cheese. We also loved the mouth-watering mixed meze, which included a fresh, vibrant salad and hummus to die for.
Managing to hold its own opposite the formidable Gökyüzü, Devran offers a wider and more eclectic menu than the big boy that lives across the street. Aside from the regular contenders, it serves a rich Kuzu Güveç (a kind of lamb casserole) and a mean veggie musakka in an area that is otherwise not exactly vegetarian-friendly. And, it’s open until 2am – perfect for a naughty late night treat.
Not the spot if you’re after a bit of a booze up, Diyabakir is 100% tee-total. Nonetheless, it’s a hit with the local Turkish community and certainly worth going dry for a night – if only to try the Ayran, a yoghurt drink that, while delicious, can seem a little intimidating for those less familiar. It’s ordered by the jug.
The new kid on the block, Zer has only been open a couple of months but it’s already picking up a bit of a following with local diners looking to sample an authentic Turkish breakfast (yes, that is a thing). Its light, airy dining space makes it a great spot for kicking back with a Sunday paper and enjoying something a little more original than a certain overcrowded Hoxton brunch spot.
A bit more casual than the other joints nearby, Harran is a good choice for a quick tasty treat when you suddenly get the urge to consume a vast quantity of meat. If you’re a fan of quality doners, its grill tends to keep spinning later into the evening than the other top establishments, and offers a comparable meal that often comes with an endless amount of freebies on the side, from flatbread to Turkish-style rice pudding.
Alright, so it’s not quite a restaurant, but it’s difficult to ignore the sweet smells wafting from this grocer-cum-patisserie that serves up some of the street’s best baklava and a whole host of other baked goodies. Most of the food on offer is based on the proprietor’s own recipes, and a team of master bakers work throughout the day to ensure freshness. Try the doughnut-esque Lokma for a sweet treat, or a spinach-filled borek for a speedy lunch on the go.
By Emma Brooke
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.