May 2019: We've added Yeni, the London outpost of Istanbul's celebrated Yeni Lokanta. As for the rest of the list, we've mulled it all over and yup, it's all still great.
Marvellous meze. Killer kebabs. Pide, beyti, borek, bahārāt… there are plenty of reasons why Turkish food (hell, Middle Eastern in general) is so popular in London. And the best places combine the traditional flavours of the country with the renowned generosity of its people, at bargainous prices. Seriously, what’s not to like? Here are our top Turkish restaurants in the capital.
The best Turkish restaurants in London
Comprising three different set-ups behind four shop fronts, Antepliler is part restaurant, part café and part patisserie (check out its baklavas and homemade ice creams). Punters pack the large dining room for generously topped pide, although we rate their slow-cooked tava stews and ‘Gaziantep’ specialities more highly. Take your time by ordering a cold beer and some meze plates to start – or pre-order by phone and turn up just as your order is ready.
The hipster’s ocakbasi of choice in Dalston, Cirrik has a way with the Turkish classics: use the charcoal-grilled bread as a spoon for meze dips, share thin-based yet fluffy pide, and don’t forget standards including the garlicky lamb beyti with its peppy yoghurt and mint dressing. The huge, sizzling grill adds atmosphere to the otherwise meh surroundings, but regulars bring their own buzz. Offshoots in Stoke Newington, Hackney and Tottenham.
The enticing smell of sizzling meat hits you way before you enter this Green Lanes favourite, which is invariably filled with Turkish locals and other faithful fans. Dishes are flavoursome, generous and priced so low you’ll inevitably over-order – the ban on booze makes your money go even further. Tuck into fresh, vibrant salads, buttery bread, superb lahmacun, and, of course, juicy, charcoal-scarred kebabs – and don’t be shy about taking your leftovers home.
This arrestingly attractive kebab shop and restaurant is a bit of a one-off: its Kentish Town location sets it apart from would-be competitors on London’s better-known mangal miles; its unusual name is a result of the owners uncovering and preserving a former shop sign when renovating the site; and its brick-and-tile interiors are several degrees cooler than the strip lights and wipe-clean surfaces of many of its contemporaries. Portions are gigantic, and the accompanying salads are excellent: get in line.
There’s usually a queue at this Med-inspired Turkish grill in Ladbroke Grove, but efficient no-nonsense service means you’ll bag a table pretty quickly. While you wait, get the juices flowing by watching Fez’s meat maestros as they rotate the hefty barbecue skewers and shave slices off the own-made doners. They’re also dab hands when it comes to grilling whole fish (try the sea bass). Fez Mangal is BYO and it doesn’t charge corkage – hooray!
Come hungry and expect a crowd at Gökyüzü – a sprawling Green Lanes institution and a gobsmacking go-to venue for prodigious portions of excellent Turkish cooking. More is more here: exhibit A is the charcoal-grilled minced chicken beyti (we counted 15 pieces!) wrapped in cheese-filled lavash bread, drizzled with butter and served with bulgur wheat, yoghurt and salad. Gökyüzü also has branches in Walthamstow, Finchley and Chingford.
It may be a simple eat-in and takeaway joint, but Hala has always been smart – and it’s still a tip-top spot for colourfully presented Turkish grills and meze served by staff in matchy-matchy waistcoats. Everything has visual pizazz and there’s generosity across the board in the daily stews, boat-shaped pide, mighty kebab platters and signature gozleme (filled pancakes) which are hand-rolled to order in the restaurant window.
You can’t help but smile when you walk into this long-serving family-run Turkish favourite: the atmosphere is infectiously homely, and the interior is a rich riot of ethnic knick-knacks, ceramic tiles and coloured glass decorations. The focus is on oven-cooked meats and fish supported by dainty salads and refined small plates – although the mixed grill is excellent too. With plenty of acceptable Turkish booze on offer, Iznik is perfect for a date or a family supper.
No relation to Kazan Kitchen across the road, this opulent Ottoman grill has been a Pimlico mainstay since 2002 – a polished, atmospheric spot complete with carved screens, glowing lanterns and flower-topped tables. Expect to pay a little more for your nosh, but in return you’ll get creative mezze plates, full-flavoured classics (the Albanian-style calf’s liver is a must-order) and a few resolutely un-Ottoman offerings. Kebabs are spot-on, and there’s not a revolving doner in sight.
East London’s most famous ocakbasi restaurant has been around for more than 20 years, but this kebab king still lures in passers-by with enticing smells from its enormous mangal grill. Meat is the main event here, so hold out for the succulent cubes of grilled lamb in the insuperable cop sis, or the garlicky lusciousness of the minced chicken beyti. Don’t expect trendy decor or deferential service; do expect banging value and authentic flavours.
Lewisham’s answer to the top Turks of Green Lanes, refurbished Meze Mangal also looks smarter than many of its more northerly contemporaries thanks to an uproarious clean-lined dining room with parquet floors, spotlights and clothed tables. The menu combines mangal classics with more unusual suggestions such as skewered quail or grilled swordfish, while great-value pides (Turkish pizzas) and Turkish wines add yet more FOMO to the ordering process.
The sleek, chic interiors of one of the swankiest Turkish restaurants in London may be smart enough for a City lunch but the whole caboodle is also casual and reasonably priced so you can splash out Shoreditch style on your own money. The menu, meanwhile, combines traditional Turkish-Cypriot cuisine with cheffy flourishes and fusion riffs – think baharat bread with date butter, pides topped with octopus, ricotta, thyme and honey, and inventive, rose-tinted desserts. A Turkish delight.
The London outpost of Istanbul’s celebrated Yeni Lokanta, this Soho spot is a deliciously atmospheric delight for fans of contemporary Turkish cuisine. The restaurant’s logo suggests a flower-shaped cluster of aubergines, and the purple-skinned delicacy appears in various guises – notably the signature manti dumpling (served gratis as an amuse-bouche). Otherwise, it’s top-drawer stuff all the way, from succulent skate cooked in raki to crisp-edged kadajifi (bread pudding) fritters spiked with candied orange zest. Yeni ain’t cheap, but we advise you to start saving.
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