When I moved from Newington Green to Clapton, I was most worried about not having delicious Turkish food on my doorstep - not of the standard I could get at Mangal, anyway.
I've found some decent E5 alternatives - my favourite among them is Neden Urfa, a take-away on Southwold Road in Upper Clapton. Sure they do bog standard doner meat and pita, but order their expertly done skewers of cubed lamb, chicken, and minced kebabs. At a fiver a pop for two adana skewers, generous amounts of fresh salad, all wrapped together in freshly rolled and cooked flatbread, Neden Urfa is excellent on all fronts. Sure it's all fluorescent striplights inside, but it can't be beaten on value and taste.
Down Lower Clapton Road, some fairly good new Turkish options have appeared. Dom's Place is a facelift on Dunya, and has had the "full hipster" - lots of washed out timber, exposed industrial pendant lights, Brooklyn lager and sweet potato fries. Hats off to them for embracing the new Clapton crowd, and some of the food is good, but on some of my visits I've found the 'de-constructed' wrap a bit clumsy, and some sides a bit limp.
Further down, Yoruk has opened with a more traditional look and traditional menu - with keenly priced grills and a homely vibe. I've been sad to see it quiet of an evening - undeservedly: it's good, with generous and warm service.
Not so quiet is the new Turkish restaurant that's opened up on Chatsworth Road: Pivaz. Literally at the end of my road, Pivaz's glass front opens up onto the road, where tables spill out onto the wide pavement, and the smell of charring lamb fills the air. It looks so open and welcoming and has been consistently busy from morning to evening since it opened a few weeks ago.
The décor and vibe has embraced l'hipster: again, lots of washed out timber, exposed brick, displays of artfully arranged rusted cogs, and a soundtrack of 2000s indie hits with the volume cranked up. But thankfully that hasn't extended to the menu, which is traditional: cold mezze, hot mezze, grilled meats, fish and veg. Cocktails are on offer, though, distinguishing it from its more old school Dalston counterparts.
The mixed mezze was a very reasonable £7.95, including a yoghurt and broad bean dish with fronds of dill, a delicious cold aubergine and tomato dish, decent little borek, creamy humus and a haloumi salad. Every dish was nice, generously portioned, and with a few flairs.
The grills landed pretty much as soon as our mezze was taken away, and came with a tomato and cucumber salad and some buttery rice. The salad was a little meek compared to the earthy pickles, fiery onions and tangy sumac you'd get in the salads at my favourite Dalston joints.
I ordered adana kebabs – my benchmark for a good Turkish grill. There were two skewers, the seasoning was authentic, but it would have been good to have a beyti (spicy) option there too. My only complaint was that they could have had a bit more of smoky taste from the charcoal, and a bit more charring on the outside. My mum's cop sis (cubes of lamb on the grill) were perfectly seasoned – just salty enough and nicely charred.
It was an enjoyable meal, good service, and clearly very popular already – I bumped into quite a few familiar faces, and was pleased to see a wide range of locals there: not just the monied twenty-thirty-something set. It may not be the gutsiest Turkish food, nor the most innovative, but at just over £20 for huge portion of decent food, a cocktail, and a tip, it's excellent value.
I'll be back, especially with the smells of the charcoals wafting down my road and with their Turkish breakfast menu to try (have you ever had menemen, Turkish scrambled egg with feta and sausage, tomato and pepper? It's the best.), but if I wanted to show off Hackney Turkish restaurants to visiting friends, I'd still take them to Dalston.