Under new management and serving delicious Turkish food, in Bloomsbury, prepared by a chef who has cooked for the Queen.
Antalya Restaurant, off Russell Square, was known for its rather ornate interior (apparently it took over a year to decorate the ceilings and walls). Earlier this year, it came under new management and the new owner, Resul Dogan, has big plans for the restaurant.
Originally from Gaziantep, the culinary capital of Turkey, he has introduced some classic dishes to the menu with traditional styles of marination, and cooking techniques. In addition to grilled meats, there are dishes cooked in casseroles, skillets and a unique lamb steak.
Resul took over at Antalya in March, increasing the number of staff in the restaurant from 9 to 27 and assigned a greeter at the door. Amongst his staff we recognised Ali Atli and Murad Eryürek who were at Efes in Fitzrovia for many years. There are two chefs in the kitchen. Head Chef Recep Kalaysi is 70 years old and some years ago, prepared Turkish mezze for the Queen.
The restaurant was fairly empty when we arrived at 5 pm, but it began to get busy around an hour later, with families and couples.
We ordered Ayran, a salty yoghurt drink, and tried the turnip juice, Salgam. Salgam, is a popular Turkish drink served chilled, or warm in the winter. It is a fermented drink made from the sour and salty brine of pickled purple carrots, flavoured with turnips, ground bulgur, rock salt, and a touch of garlic. It must be an acquired taste, unless of course you love savoury, sour drinks.
To start with, we had a selection of cold mezze – the tabbouleh was made with fresh, crisp ingredients and was quite refreshing. The hummus was lovely – nutty, smooth and creamy, Fasulye (fresh green beans) were simple enough with olive oil and tomatoes, and the cacik was thick, rich and creamy. The kisir (with cracked wheat, vegetables and nuts) was wonderful with the pomegranate sauce.
I didn’t enjoy the broad beans as much as the other dishes, but the patlican soslu (aubergine with mixed sweet peppers, in a garlic tomato sauce with yogurt ) was one of the tastiest of the cold mezze.
The hot mezze were felafel on hummus, grilled halloumi, Mitite kofte (meatballs) and borek (filo rolls with a feta cheese filling). I loved the felafel and the succulent meatballs, which were both crispy on the outside and soft inside.
For our main course, we had the lamb casserole (known as Bolu Tava). This is a dish from Chef Recep’s hometown, near Istanbul. This must be the best lamb casserole I have ever tasted! The small pieces of boneless lamb were melt-in-the-mouth tender, the vegetables had good texture and the sauce was incredibly flavourful. There were small bowls of dried mint, oregano and paprika to sprinkle over the top for extra flavour, although not necessary. Served with Turkish rice and pine kernels, it was a very tasty dish.
We also had an impressive lamb platter, with Adana kebab, lamb steak and vegetables. The Adana kebab was soft, juicy and wonderfully flavoured. The lamb neck fillets are from the Best End of Neck, and are the most expensive cut. They cook quickly, and are lean and have a more delicate flavour than leg of lamb. They were tender and absolutely delicious. The sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, fluffy potatoes and mushrooms filled with cheese were a wonderful accompaniment, and roasted green chillies and garlic, for those looking for an extra kick! Lamb steak on the menu, but it can be requested.
For dessert we had figs with walnuts in a sugar syrup and baklava with pistachios, served with dollops of kaymak (similar to clotted cream). The figs were rich and delicious with a touch of lemon and the wonderful crunch of walnut. Turkish baklava is my favourite and the pastry was paper thin with a melt in the mouth texture, and a generous sprinkling of pistachios imported from Gaziantep.
We also tried the Katmer, a popular dessert in Gaziantep. Served warm, this was a delicious buttery, paper thin, flakey pastry, filled with kaymak and pistachios.
The after dinner, lightly scented, moist finger wipes were a nice touch.
The service was quick and friendly, and we enjoyed the meal, especially the Lamb casserole and the Lamb steak .
On Sundays, from 8:00am-3:00pm they serve a Turkish and English breakfast buffet for £13.99 including tea and coffee.
There is also a function room for 25-30 people.
The restaurant will be expanding in the near future as Resul is hoping to open an organic kebab shop next door, complete with nutrition charts. He also hopes to open a Turkish patisserie/coffee shop with a creche.
I was invited to review this restaurant. All the opinions are my own.
103-105 Southampton Row
London WC1B 4HH
Tel: 020 7580 5355