Wednesday, 3 August 2011
19 Numara Bos Cirrik I, Dalston
On the one hand, this is going to be yet another blog post about a fantastic, ludicrously cheap Ocakbasi grill, and to that end, I apologise if it feels like you've heard it all before. Londoners are spoiled for decent Turkish restaurants in a way that almost no other cuisine can manage - some are better than others, of course, and I imagine it is at least theoretically possible to have a bad Turkish if you try hard enough, but there are just so many good ones scattered around certain areas of Dalston and Shoreditch that you'd have to be very unlucky to come away disappointed. In one tiny stretch of the Stoke Newington Road there is the brilliant and ever popular Mangal 2, the unpronounceable but apparently very highly regarded Istanbul Iskembecisi, and the cryptically titled 19 Numara Bos Cirrik I, where I spent a thoroughly enjoyable Monday evening.
You know there is some real talent in a kitchen when even something as straightforward as house hummus draws gasps of approval. It was, in fact, the finest example of this humble dish I've had in a very long time - light and smooth, seasoned perfectly and astonishingly fresh. A generous round of lahmacun (sort of a Turkish pizza for want of a better description) was straight out of the oven and lovely and crisp, and cost a pathetic £2; amazing value. And even a plate of yoghurt and cucumber did its job commendably well, cooling the soft house bread and tasting bright and summery.
The only problem I had with the house salad "Esme" was that I wasn't sure how to eat it. Chopped and crushed and ground down so much (I watched them do it) it had turned into a kind of Turkish gazpacho, and the flat plate it came on was hugely impractical. But, needless to say, it was seasoned well, tasted great, and was a lovely colour from the tomatoes and fresh parsley. And while perhaps not quite up there with the version at FM Mangal in Camberwell (and I doubt anything ever could be), the pomegranate and onion pickle was still hugely addictive. The Esme was £4 and the onion pickle was free. Crazy.
Deep fried I think rather than grilled, the halloumi wasn't 19NBC's greatest creation, but tempered with the onion pickle it had crunch and enough salty cheesy goodness to make it worth the effort. And around this time yet another free salad arrived, just a straightforward mix of tomatoes, lettuce, onion and cabbage dressed in olive oil and parsley but still, they went to the effort of making it for us and didn't even charge. The generosity of spirit is heartwarming.
Lamb behti kebabs came served on house bread soaked up the meat juices and soft brown rice. The kebabs themselves were top-drawer, moist and rich and seasoned perfectly, and there was a huge amount of meat here for £9.50. Part of the reason our bill was so low could have been that this was the only significant meat dish we ordered, but as it was midsummer (and 19NBC has no air conditioning, so be warned) we didn't really feel like anything too heavy.
With two beers, a Ribena (don't ask) and as much iced tap water as you could want, the bill came to just £40 for 4 people. All four of us left stuffed, happy and with kebab juice staining our clothing (well OK that might have just been me) and with nothing, other than perhaps the raging heat, to complain about. It is hard not to get complacent when you're tucking into another great Turkish grill and paying a pittance for it, but the astonishing quality and value of so many of these places should not distract for a second from the effort and skill that must go into running them. 19 Numara Bos Cirrik I is Yet Another Great Ocakbasi, and I will never get bored of eating there.