Not long before Christmas, Gym’s Kitchen, the restaurant with the macro-counted, protein-packed menu closed its doors for the final time.
And a couple of weeks ago The Black Garlic, a brand new (and nicely named) joint specialising in Ottoman food, opened in the same spot.
The duo behind The Black Garlic are chef-patrons and friends Suleyman Kahraman and Sameer Shahzada, whose CVs include stints working under stars including Raymond Blanc, Georgio Locatelli and Jason Atherton. Yikes.
These heavy-hitting credentials, combined with some seriously tasty looking social media posts, put it right to the top of my local must-try list – and I finally made it down for a late lunch last Saturday.Inside the place hasn’t changed very much at all since Gym’s reign. The motivational quotes on the walls have gone – phew – and are now replaced by modern photography, but the layout and overall simple modern vibe remains. To be honest though, this place isn’t about the décor, it’s about the food and, spoiler alert, it’s good. These guys can cook.
The menu is divided into four: mezze dishes to start, mains from the grill or the oven, and there’s a selection of Ottoman sides.
We asked for all our food to arrive at once (it was 3pm, I was hungry) and it wasn’t long before our table was covered in a selection of artfully presented dishes. The starters looked ultra-modern on black rectangular plates, the mains a little more rustic in earthenware bowls and wooden boards.
The baba ganoush was chunkier than any I’ve eaten previously but was, without a doubt, the best – the smoky aubergine, tahini and a touch of garlic all hanging out together just so. The halloumi was perfectly grilled, topped with a spicy tomato salsa that was the ideal complement to the salty staple.The mains were just as good. Prawn güveç comprised a big bowl of chunky pieces of Mediterranean vegetables including onions, courgettes and peppers, in a spicy tomato sauce, topped with six well-sized marinated king prawns, plus flatbread piled up and drizzled with olive oil on the side. (Check any carb-avoiding tendencies at the door, the bread is too good to miss.)
The grilled spicy sausages arrived with a dollop of suzme yoghurt, more of that bread and were gone before I got the chance to have a taste.
Best still, we bagged ourselves a lunch deal: a mezze, main and a side is £11.95 (or just £9.95 weekdays) and, so with a freshly squeezed orange juice to wash it down with, the meal for two came to a total of £27.90.
Combined with the friendly and efficient service it’s one of the best of its level in E10. I’m already planning a return visit – they do breakfast apparently – and then I’ve got to work my way through the rest of the menu.