March 15, 2013

“Fancy trying that new Turkish place on Narborough Road?” asks Cockney Rob.   “Looks like the places in Dalston”.

Being a South Londoner by extraction the food cultures of the East End are a bit of a mystery to me, but Cockney Rob knows and enjoys his food and something tells me the Turkish restaurants in Dalston are good ones. So yes, I did fancy trying.

The North end of Narborough Road is a fascinating place which seems to pulse with every new shift in the complex ethnic and cultural jigsaw of our city.  In recent years it’s been Eastern Europeans who have made the running. In recent months it seems the Turkish community has reached lift-off, and now in the space of a few yards we’ve got a first class cafe which I’ve lauded here several times, in the shape of Yesim, and now two proper grill restaurants – Istanbul and Sultan.


Yogurtlu adana kofte - with dangerous chilli

Yogurtlu adana kofte – with dangerous chilli

We tried Sultan, by the Hinckley Rd junction, next to what sadly is probably best known as “the bomb site”.  Approaching it the signs were good – it was busy and bright and there was the most wonderful smoky, barbecue grill aroma wafting into the street. If it hadn’t have been for the bitter March weather you could have been walking by the Bosphurus not the Soar [not really, obviously, but you take my point].   It’s not licensed but the sweetly fragrant Turkish tea we’re offered sets a mood. There’s a satisfying buzz around the place  – a couple of big groups, some families, some couples and it’s the kind of kaleidoscopically diverse clientele that would give Nick Griffin nightmares (that’s if he can sleep at night).  Me,  Cockney Rob and ermm, let’s call him Countesthorpe Mikey, get stuck into a selection of six meze – and they are all rather wonderful. Beautifully dressed sharp and tangy feta cheese and a sweetly delicious aubergine and pepper stew were my highlights, but there was also really well-made hummous, dolmades, cacik and potato salad.  The warm sesame bread was so good we ordered more.

chargrilled onions

chargrilled onions

The mains are mainly kebabs – nothing too fancy here, grilled and spiced meats with rice – or chips – and a nice fresh, colourful, crunchy salad.  Mikey had skewers of garlicky minced chicken beyti, I had the lamb beyti, and Rob the yoghurtlu adana kofte.  The later came on chunks of bread which were delicously soggy with yoghurt and sauce, which for us was a shame because we’d earlier over-indulged with bread.  We also had a side of really great chargilled onions in a slightly sweet and sour dressing.

I’ve  had several friends return from visits to Istanbul recently and all have enthused about the friendliness of the Turks and the welcome and service here was lovely  – informal but friendly and attentive.  It’s not fine dining, but it is good quality, enjoyable food served in a quite stylish room to what seemed an enthusiastic clientele and at perfectly reasonable prices.

Good to know that when the tourists from Dalston arrive to see our King from the Car Park, they’ll be able to eat as well as at home.

Great Cake Places

March 14, 2013

Being the sharp-eyed,media-savvy, hip to the trend kind of readers you are, I suspect you may have noticed that baking has become somewhat fashionable. Given that Leicestershire and Rutland is already home to Britain’s Best Bakery in the shape of Hambleton, I thought I’d respond to a request for help with nominations for Britain’s “Great Cake Places”.   To go with a forthcoming guidebook, publishers Allegra are looking for recommendations of places with great cake and patisserie, espcially where there’s an “enchanting or intriguing” location.

If you’ve got somewhere you want to big up, go to and do their survey. You can also engage in alll that twitter and facebook malarky to chat with others. Having a quick think, places I’ve had good cake recently include – Miss B’s in Melton Mowbray, Yesim on Narborough Road (heavenly baklava), Dominic’s at David North in Rothley, Fingerprints on Queen’s Rd, Johanna’s in Oakham, Wistow Mediterranean deli (more baklava – there’s a theme emerging here), Elizabeth’s patisserie (at various farmer’s markets). I’m sure there a few good candidates I’ve missed …


mmmm, bak-la-va...

mmmm, bak-la-va…



The Parcel Yard

March 1, 2013

Earlier this week Leicestershire brewers and pub company Steamin’ Billy opened their seventh pub, this time right in the heart of Leicester. The Parcel Yard had actually been run by them for a good few years as Time, a large cocktail bar right next to the rail station drawing a young crowd. Now though they’ve shifted it into a more mainstream pub approach. It’s a big old barn of a place but the refurb has done a good job of softening the edges and making it that bit more comfortable and more food-oriented, with a range of areas including high bar stools, booths for four or six and a more restauranty area down the far end.

Big venue, named after a building’s previous use, real ales, pub food, loyalty cards  –  the comparisons to Wetherspoon’s mount up, but this is pitched a fair bit higher than that highly successful megachain.  I had a really good club sandwich  – huge pieces of chargrilled chicken breast, nice crispy bacon, and a pile of perfect fat chips.   Not dainty, refined  – well you wouldn’t really expect it of a club sandwich – but good enough to make me think I might risk going for one of the main courses such as coq au vin or confit duck  (around a tenner) on another occasion. Maybe not a big meal out occasion, but certainly an informal something nice before or after the match occasion.

The Parcel Yard

The Parcel Yard

It’s also great to have a good pub right by the station.  The Sheffield Tap at Sheffield station, opened in collaboration with Thornbridge, has been a great success as a destination beer pub.  I could only see three of Steamin’ Billy’s own real ales  behind the bar but you’d hope that range will expand in due course. A nice way to mark your arrival or departure from the city anyway.


%d bloggers like this: