Fact: Grove Green Road’s iconic former scouts’ hut Filly Brook is especially good at shaking up the kitchen residencies once a year or so. And it does so while retaining the microscopic attention to detail – crisp white interior, vinyl-only music policy, high-quality beers and wines – that make it such a vibrant local destination.
With the departure of Tangy’s Tasty Stuff, the latest concept is Sireli, a new idea from old friends and Leytonstone locals, Oliver Iplicjian and Mick McGurk. The simple and appealing focus is on Persian and Levantine-influenced small plates and Middle Eastern fried chicken.
After travelling and eating his way around Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine, Oli returned to London and set up his street food concept Halloumi Fries back in 2016. Meanwhile head chef Mick comes with a decade’s experience gained at various restaurants from Melbourne to London.
The pair say that at the heart of Sireli is “a fun and laid back approach to food, something for all the neighbourhood to enjoy with plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.” And the menu backs this up. Pretentious it is not, and yet its ingredients and flavour profiles mean it is, of course, bang on trend.
On a gently buzzing Friday at the start of the last bank holiday weekend we took a seat, and basically wanted to tick off the whole menu. House pickles? Fattoush? Skin-on chips with za-atar and smoked ketchup? Next time, next time.
Instead we shared half a dozen of these plates (well-priced at £5.50 – £8): gooey salt cod croquettes with nutty muhammara lifted by charred lemon; cauliflower tenders, fried in a meaty breadcrumb, with fiery scotch bonnet sauce; rather filling halloumi fries with zingy pomegranate seeds, mint and za-atar; and a palate-cleansing heritage tomato salad with cauliflower and sumac onions. This last one was an unexpected highlight and encouraging omen for the summer ahead.
The finest two plates proved to be the larger ones, also reasonably priced at £10 and £15 respectively: spicy little lamb merguez sausages (top left) lay on a whorl of whipped feta and baked croutons, while the top dish of the night was juicy slivers of grass-fed bavette (top right), served pink on spring onions and buttered greens, topped with zhug (the fresh chimichurri-style sauce made with cumin, coriander and hot chilies), a burnt sivri pepper running along its length.
The secret, we tentatively concluded, is to be careful how many fried dishes you order, as the veg and meat plates were packed with more flavour. Other tempting contenders for next time include roasted squash, tahini and chickpeas, and burrata with pickled charred grapes and basil.
And as for the name? It means ‘sweetheart.’ Well, for starters, at least, Sireli seems pretty easy to love.
Leytonstoner ate as guests of Filly Brook. Stephen Emms writes about food and travel for The Guardian, Sunday Times and more (@stephenemms)