Saturday, 6 November 2010


"The urge to wider voyages . . . caused I to stumble upon Şömine"
(to quote and unquote Kenneth Cragg).

About eighteen months ago I made an epic trip by bus to experience the much hyped grilled meats at the Mangal Ocakbasi Restaurant in Dalston but was eventually let down by my geographical incompetence. In those days (and yes as recent as that) one had to rely solely on a hard copy of the A-Z (mine was inexplicably misplaced during the journey involving three buses) and my mobile was (and still is) satnav-less. Thereafter I had as much chance with Mangal as Scott did with the North Pole. Thankfully the despondency was short-lived,
I noticed whilst getting off the 149 on Kingsland High Street a bustling cafeteria a few feet away from the stop. The alleviation from the Mangal fiasco came in the form of Şömine.

Like Vietnamese the Turkish language and depending on one’s provenance it’s either blessed or riddled with an abundance of diacritics. Şömine (sh-me-nay), or without the cedilla and umlaut, Somine (albeit ignorantly as so-mine or so-meenie) is Turkish for a fireplace or grate. Şömine perceives and typifies as a workmen’s café, populated by strong taches of Anatolian persuasion and Hackney luvvies. It’s a canteen serving Turkish food without denting your wallet. Hearty meals can be had here for under a tenner. Similar to Wonkys, it epitomises a 3/5 stars rating, neither lower nor higher simply because it’s thus so. And again like the Soho stalwart and Khan’s for that matter, the service at Şömine would appear to be conniving if you wish to encourage it in the first place. So lay down your arms and be sensible, we’re talking cheap eats and communal dining here and not about a place that appraises your whims.

The menu. This is important, as it’s the only printed one the restaurant has in its possession and it can only be viewed from the shop-front. In fact the menu is only indicative, abolish all intensive-ordering plans as Şömine decides what dishes they decide to serve that day.

Back to the window display and you’ll need to decide from a lamb, lamb, chicken, lamb, lamb or a token vegetarian dish. Şömine serves pre-cooked classic Turkish dishes served from food warmers from dusk till dawn. Turkish food is not just about…look if you’re after kebabs et al here, then you’re barking up erroneously.

The Soups- now this place is an absolute haven for soups. They’re served with a large basket (kitschy plastic jobbies) of warm floury Turkish bread (more than enough for the die-hard carb dependants), olives and pickles. Additionally they cost no more than 4 quid each and I thought Ricky Tomlinson was generous! Oh before you harp on about blandness and lack of this or that, please do pay a bit of attention to the condiments on your table of malt vinegar, pepper, salt, dried chilli flakes and lemon wedges on the table. They’re there for a reason!

Mercimek Çorbası
Lentil Soup. Had this recently when my tummy was still rumbling after a disastrous evening at Thăng Long. The wonderful tasting soup with its authenticated graininess was placative and remedial. If sanctified is too strong a word then so be it.

Tavuk Çorbası
Chicken Soup with rice. Not bad but certainly not as memorable as this.

Paça Çorbası
Trotter Soup. Yes I know, Sybil, halal and what not, ‘tis only a literal translation, it’s actually goat’s or sheep’s feet soup. An absolutely delight, if you get to eat this über umami-laden dish then you’ll love this as well. Don’t forget to spice and tang it up, it’s brill!

Lamb casserole with aubergines, tomatoes, onions, etc. Excellent. This dish is great for peeps that harbour an aversion to all things bleating!

Lamb on the bone or shanks with potatoes and tomato sauce.

Juicy, melting, and tender- the best pirzola I’ve had in London. I believe that like the Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad at St. John, this dish is sacrosanct at Şömine.

It’s worth noting that all the mains are a fiver each.

Saray Burmasi
Walnut and pistachio baklava. Achingly sticky and sweet dessert but universally delectable!

Wanna a decent coffee now? Then head off nearby to either Mouse & de Lotz or Tina, we salute you and immerse oneself in Huxley’s Brave New World.

Hail Hackney, hail Dalston, and hail Şömine! Enjoy.

131 Kingsland High Street
London E8 2PB


thora said...


bellaphon said...

Hi T, I expect authentic Turkish food is less limited in BVB-land than in London!

Anonymous said...

Yay got your appetite back.

Su-Lin said...

I've discovered I can get to Dalston direct from Acton with the overground! Hooray - Turkish food in my future!

Gastro1 said...

you are a brave man

bellaphon said...

Anon- Thank you. Seems like I know you.

S-L- The Overground is a wonderful bonus but it never runs on time!

Gastro1- Like all true gourmands I am indeed. Thank you.