My favourite restaurants are restaurants that don’t feel like restaurants. They have good, simple food, nice people and a well-stocked bar. They feel more like you’re sitting down to dinner at a friend’s house. Just with waiters.
That’s why Efendi popping up in the neighbourhood was such a pleasant discovery. It’s the latest venture from the team behind This Bright Field, which used to stand in its place on Cambridge Heath Road.
This time owner Emel Sumen is going back to his roots and serving authentic Turkish food. It’s billed as a neighbourhood kitchen and is just that – a light and airy restaurant full of scrubbed wooden tables and a long serving bar where you can see the chefs at work.
One wall is floor-to-ceiling windows, so it’s full of light all year round and outside there are plenty of tables to take in the evening air and watch the bustle as the days get warmer.
We took too long picking, so they started bringing out heaped platefuls to try.
We kicked off with a very decent carafe of house red, mopped up with some freshly baked bread and lemony, garlicky hummus goodness.
Next was a mezze plate laden with everything from sigara boregi – warm little cigars of crispy filo pastry stuffed with feta and herbs – to sucuk – grilled discs of spicy Turkish sausage, to crunchy falafel.
The icli kofte was another highlight – moist little balls of bulgar wheat with minced meat, herbs and walnut – as were the fried squares of juicy halloumi-like hellim from Cyprus. I fear there is no upper limit to how much of that grilled cheese I could eat.
Luckily the mains came out before I could find out for certain. We had an impressive platter of morsels from the grill including gently spiced chicken shish – and lamb too for good measure – as well as lamb ribs.
Emel says nothing goes on the menu without his approval and that’s clear. The food is simple, but delicious.
This is a wonderful, homely Turkish kitchen that will draw you in and post you back out into the night well-fed, well-watered and well looked after.
270 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9DA