Eating out in London Bridge is all about knowing where to look. Magdalen, which is easy to miss on the busy Tooley Street, serves outstanding British food that shows a real attention to detail. Champor-Champor provides Asian fusion cuisine that resists most labels, aside from ‘great’. At café and gallery Caphe House, you can pick up a Vietnamese baguette, called bánh mì, along with a painting, if you want.
The Sofra chain is the creation of Hüseyin Özer, who has been a passionate champion of fine Turkish cuisine both in the UK and overseas. He has a formula for its three London restaurants: well-produced food and quick service. This relatively small branch is hidden in the small streets between Covent Garden and Aldwych. The long thin interior widens at the back, but tables still seem rather crowded together in the middle. Thick white tablecloths are offset by a scarlet wall, and metal vents snake across the ceiling. Incongruous as these are, the only jarring element was a painting of the crucifixion for sale on one wall. The traditional Turkish menu is augmented by steaks and vegetarian dishes, Turkish pizzas and a selection of daily specials. We started with a wonderful börek platter, the leek pastry having an outstanding mix of crisp and soft textures. Equally rich in texture was an exceptionally succulent portion of albanian liver. This was followed by a tender hünkar beƒendi – stewed lamb on a bed of smoky mashed aubergine. We also sampled a nicely moist grilled sea bass that was beautifully orange in colour, accompanied by lightly steamed vegetables and mashed potato. NOTE: It has been announced that this branch of Sofra will be closing at the end of 2014, when the lease on the restaurant expires. The other two branches, off Oxford Street and in Shepherd Market, will remain open.The Time Out Food and Drink Team.