Turquoise, Red Lion Street WC1X
Considering the number of restaurants on Red Lion Street, it’s surprising that this Holborn backwater isn’t more famous for dining. In the 19th Century, the area welcomed a sizeable Italian population, and was commonly known as ‘Little Italy’. Today, that history is still reflected in the predominant cuisine round these parts, while most of the remaining spots offer East Asian food of varying standard. In the past couple of years, however, a string of Middle Eastern restaurants have opened. Turquoise only a few weeks ago.
Although it’s brand new, the restaurant seems to have been reviewed already. By our dictionary:
Turquoise: Noun. Sky-blue to pale green Turkish gem.
We couldn’t have put it more succinctly. Bathed in a blue-green light that spills onto the road, this spanking new eaterie really stands out, both visually and for value.
First impressions were not perfect, however. We were the night’s earliest customers, and were rewarded with music from Heart FM’s reject vault. Boy-band renditions of forgotten power ballads accompanied our first course, until a second table became occupied and Turkish rhythms took over. Minor quibble. Everything else was spot on.
Like any good gemstone, the menu choice was multifaceted. From a vast selection of hot and cold starters, we selected the tabuleh (parsley and cracked wheat) and kisir (wheat, nuts, vegetables in a pomegranate sauce; pictured). Both were hummingly good and left us drooling for more. Fortunately, an ample helping of complementary hummus, flatbread and olives kept us going until the main course.
These, when they came, were every bit as ooo-some. The kalamar sote contained more squid than a seadog’s yarn. The vegetarian grill, meanwhile, packed in all kinds of flavours, held steady by a bedrock of aubergine.
Service was efficient, friendly, but not overbearing. The wine list was long, and included a few Turkish reds for the adventurous. Main courses were in the £6-9 bracket, with starters and deserts at £3-4. We'll certainly be back to explore other parts of the menu. Unashamedly, we find ourselves invoking the predictable ‘Turkish delight’ cliché to sum things up.
Spit or Swallow? Swallow!