The new Turkish restaurant, Oven East, trading for a few weeks now slap-bang opposite Harrow Green war memorial, takes the opposite approach.
Even on a grey Saturday afternoon in October, the whole front was opened up the street, with tables smartly laid out, Turkish tea bubbling in the corner for people to help themselves, and the kitchen at the back opened out so anyone could talk with the owner, Jay, whilst he prepared your order.
Jay was even happy to invite us in to his kitchen to pre-judge for ourselves the spice levels of the chicken pide (Turkish pizza) we opted for, and explain his excitement about opening a new restaurant on a strip that isn’t the usual destination for a hungry Leytonstoner.
Having run restaurants in Highbury, he’d taken a chance on a side-street in Ilford a decade ago and was now dishing up hundreds of Lahmacun a day to the local, predominately non-Turkish community. His passion for high quality food plus his confidence in knowing how to get people hooked on it for had tempted him to take over the unit on Leytonstone High Road.
Oven East has a simple, no frills decor (apart from some smart traditional Turkish tiling on the floor), but a huge masonry oven that dominates the kitchen and a big grill for cooking up meats suggests that Jay is confident his latest venture will be a hit.
And well it should. Our pide was perfectly balanced between a crisp base and juicy, succulent chicken that was mixed in with a lip-smacking blend of herbs and spices. Our lamb tava, small cuts of spiced lamb mixed with onion and garlic and served on bulgar wheat, tasted fresh and filling with another beautiful, dancing-in-your-mouth mix of spice – and without any of the stodge that it’s easy to get with those types of dishes.
Jay reasoned that with so many young families moving over the A12 from Hackney, Stokey and Camden, those new arrivals would still like to take their eating out habits with them. He was happy having a unit away from the rest of the High Street because by virtue of his success in Ilford, he was able to take his time and could slowly build up more local customers.
Even with prices slightly higher than the rest of the High Road, Jay is likely to succeed because there’s no real local competition for either the dishes on his menu, the freshness and quality of it, and his friendly attitude. Oven East should be here to stay.[review]