Think ‘Ottoman palace’ and Istanbul’s Topkapı Sarayı; might spring to mind, not Camden High Street, whose most palatial building is the unappetising Koko club. This so-called palace may lack a harem, but the owners have made a decent, sabre-edged stab at evoking Turkish luxury (albeit via the site’s previous incarnation as a Vietnamese restaurant), with intricately cut wooden screens and velvet cushions. The back area is oddly constructed: exposed sloping roofs and skylights imply that an al fresco effect was the aim, yet these are juxtaposed with backlit mirrors and glistening, obsidian-like floors.
Starters were served on very 1990s plates, and the non-traditional mixed leaf salad that accompanied them was a disappointment – we missed those masterclasses of chopping that are typical of traditional Turkish salads such as çoban. Nevertheless, lamb’s liver was good, and pallid-looking squid surprisingly savoury, though the famous imam bayıldı left us unmoved. One of our main courses – ískender kebab – was decent, despite the fundamental failing of soggy bread at its base. Another of za’atar chicken with green lentils, baby spinach and chestnut stew was tasty and light (as Turkish mains go), even if the name given on the menu – tavuk göƒsü – usually refers to a chicken-based dessert.