Thursday, 26 May 2011


The majority of the Turkish people settled in the United Kingdom live in Hackney and so it comes as no surprise that we’re blessed with a plethora of restaurants contributing to a cuisine that’s perennially underrated as world-class. I’ve tried hard to appreciate Middle Eastern and Balkan cooking but none of them approached the full-on flavours and astounding variety of dishes from its Turkish neighbour. Going out for a Turkish in Hackney would undeniably assure you’d eat tremendously well without ending up penniless. So a big ‘sağolun’ to the Turkish Cypriots, Mainlanders and Kurds (who run the restaurants and takeaways) for making me hungry and happy whenever I’m on my way to either- EC1, EC2, E1, E2, E5, E8, E9, E10, N1, N4, N15 or N16.

With a blink of an eye Tad (tasty in Turkish), and what with its mangal (bbq grill), could be mistaken for yet another 'everything but the wool' (in)convenience. Located not too far away from the jaded Hackney Empire, Tad’s a lot more than dishing out much needed grub to late night pub goers, it’s a bistro, bar and a proper restaurant offering serious Turkish fayre.

This large restaurant is situated within a complex of ‘don’t say we didn’t try hard enough but ‘tis modern anyhow’ social housing flats and shops et al. The ambience of the dining room is akin to a large office canteen or a motorway service concession but somehow subdued by the gaudy red tablecloths. The service here like most Turkish places can be consistently cocky, disregarding and disjointed. The waiting staff speak little English unless by some miracle if you’re an attractive gal or to guys like myself if we start muttering about the Süper Lig. I’ve been here a dozen times and they still harbour mistrusts about yours truly but heck the food here is good!

Now you must always start your meal with a small glass of Turkish tea or çay, Authentically and traditionally this should be on the house at any Turkish eateries but if you’re charged for it then you must have been a tricky time-waster. Just to say, I put loads of sugar in mine.

Onto to the food-

Paça corbasi

Loved it and despite the literal translation of ‘trotter soup’ it was in fact one made with neck of lamb. And like all Turkish soups, DIY seasoning is mandatory. Just don’t be shy with the lemon wedges, dried chilli peppers and vinegar. Incidentally if one’s not too offally-challenged, this is my favourite Turkish soup.

Tavuk corbasi

Chicken soup served with orzo pasta (look it up yourself and take note; all soups are served with a huge breadbasket).

I live for livers and this is one my last meal requests. Arnavut ciğeri or Albanian liver.
Tender and gratuitously spiced! It was the most appetising of all appetisers. Mind you, the portion was perhaps a bit too large for a starter.

We’re dining Turkish so we’ve gotta include kebabs- the cop şış

Little lamb cubes. My advice is to avoid this option and go for the regular lamb shish instead; the latter’s bigger cubes of meat have a lesser tendency to dry out.

Chicken shish
Very good and raises the question- why do halal birds consistently taste so much better than free-range or organic ones?

Turkish servings are obviously hospitable and generous. The fully inclusive accompaniments of bread, rice, mixed salad (with rocket being the mother of the ‘em all), sliced onion salad with sumac…

…and the pişmiş soğan (baked and grilled onions in pomegranate juice) was mind-bogglingly sensational! If there were dishes that are worthy of heritage-status this would be one of them.

If in doubt about what to order at Tad do go for the hearty günün sulu yemekleri or dish of the day. Choices of chicken, lamb or veggie stews are offered. The above shown was lamb shank and it was outrageously cheap at less than six quid to include spuds, rice and salad.

Tad’s take on a pizza.
It wasn’t one and let alone a lahmacun. It tasted mutant in all respects. Poor.

Çipura izgara
Grilled sea bream with more rocket salad. Well-cooked fish (big enough for two) that was sufficiently fresh and expertly seasoned with enough herbs to recreate a heedful Mediterranean eating experience in Hackney! I’ve often wondered why do most Turkish places in London omit fine shellfish and other fishes from their menus, the braziers used are perfect for cooking great seafood dishes! Perhaps the dietary restrictions are upheld for
religious reasons.

Patlican kebab
Char grilled humongous lamb meatballs and aubergines, baked thereafter in a rich mushroom and tomato sauce, and served with yet more rice and salad. This was a ridiculously vast portion enough for 2-3 persons and it was also delectably heart-warming to boot!

Böbrek- lamb kidneys.

An off-piste dish like lamb testicles…case of if you don’t ask you don’t get. Splendidly seasoned and cooked; tender, bittersweet and heavenly tasting. Less than six quid for a mains to include the usual tedium of gratis rice, bread and salads.

The coffee was surprisingly up there with the best of the antipodean efforts in Hackney, just don’t order a cap or flattie, and stick to plain black.

Now end your meal with more çay. Burp discreetly, feel a little bit guilty about not finishing the meal (‘twas too much and all), pay the bill and don’t forget to tip…great value dining always comes with an indifferent service.

My Mum went to Istanbul last year for the first time and she recalled how amazing the food was and especially the lamb dishes. Now lamb’s never been a primary feature in Malaysian cooking, ok we sometimes scoff on strong goaty mutton stuff but it was in Turkey where Mum decided that the Turks knew a thing or two about cooking lambert. If she ever decides to visit me in London then I would take her to Tad without an inch of hesitance. Tad is that good.

To reinforce the wonderful Turkish presence in the East End please read this post

261 Mare Street
London E8 3NS



Talonaer said...

Looks fantastic. Having spent 7 long summers working all over Turkey that looks like some of the most authentic grub I've seen in london. Will be taking a trip!

Glad you've already visited capri! definately worth the revisit :)

regards anon/dan

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I covet that aubergine and meatball dish.

bellaphon said...

DAN-onymous, thank you and you'll also find that most of the joints in Hacks serve authentic Turkish nosh. As for Planet Kebab, I really dunno...

Kake- how about lamb skewers at Gourmet San next?

Anonymous said...

Totally up for that. I tried to persuade my sister to go there for lunch with me earlier this week, but she insisted on Sweet & Spicy instead :)

Unknown said...

Interesting review, its nice to see some 'off the menu items' reviewed that i'll have to give a go next time i'm down there (currently staying all of 15 meters away!). It's all too easy to just to pop down for a quick lahmacun when I can't be bothered cooking.

Gets my vote. Cheap and friendly too.

thora said...

Delicious! Looks like there were at least 5 people eating all that wonderful looking food.

Sean said...

Interesting review. I agree it's good, but Anatolia a 100 metres or so down the road is the standard bearer for the area. It has, however, recently taken sweetbreads off the menu, so I may have to take a closer look at Tad's menu and see whether they can tempt me back. I've gotta get my glands somewhere.

bellaphon said...

Hey Tuckers, good to see you back in the East End. Notting Hill Gate is where I live and it's full of poncey Pain-the-arse Quotidiana wannabes and of course tossy gastropubs! Hackney residents are blessed.

Thora- Except for one occasion when my lady friend ordered the accursed pizza, otherwise I usually dine solo.

Sean- Yes I've been to Anatolia and I must confess that it's every bit as good as Tad. Thanks for stopping.

Jonathan said...

If you're looking for sweetbreads then Antepliler Ciger Salonu (the offally spin-off cafe from the original Antepliler)on Green Lanes do a fantastic rendition for about £6. Plus liver, kidneys, heart and off-piste testes for even less.

bellaphon said...

Jonathan- Thanks for your ACS recommendation and I shall give it go, I do love loitering around Green Lanes.

Jonathan said...

Glad to hear it! If you loiter long enough for dessert then I also recommend getting their kunefe, which may be even better than their meats.

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