It’s said the sequel is never as good as the original. Why risk ruining your reputation when the first is a cult classic? I’ve never visited Yeni Lokanta, acclaimed chef Civan Er’s original masterpiece in Istanbul, but Yeni, his second venture, in Soho, is a sequel worth sampling.
We are greeted like old friends, warmly welcomed into the family and seated near the modest open kitchen. Here Civan keeps an eye on the evening. Why set up in London? He loves Istanbul for its blend of Greek, Italian and Asian influences. London, he says, is that same melting pot. A home from home.
Spider-like chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, suspended over a simple layout. Made by Turkish artisans and flown into the Beak Street restaurant, each piece of furniture fits the low-key, traditional look. The restaurant’s subtle aubergine motif is splashed across custom-made mosaic tiles, adding a drop of Mediterranean turquoise to the well-worn, white brick walls.
Paired with a traditional orange wine – yes, orange – we choose three starters and a main to share, adopting the customary meze-style dining. Each dish is beautifully executed, dainty in size, but beyond bold in flavour. From the classic çig kofte tartare with a contemporary aromatic heat, to the pan fried 12-month feta complete with spiced honey and salty samphire, these starters pack a real punch, each mouthful rich with a concoction of flavours I would never even attempt to put together. Our main, the signature roasted beef ribs with isot pepper and cumin on sourdough, is such a crowd pleaser, I’m assured this one will stay on the menu season after season. The rest of the ingredients are a combination of locally-sourced meats and fish, and Turkish and Greek delicacies like the soft Xigalo cheese. Eyeing up everyone else’s desserts, we order both options – the last thing we want to feel is the wretched diner’s remorse. Salted caramel panna cotta and a delicate cream-filled filo pastry are devoured quickly. And that’s my only regret: it all ends too soon.
Can I get you anything else, our waiter asks? If Er’s original restaurant can better this, I’ll take two tickets to Istanbul please.
55 Beak Street, W1F (020 3475 1903; yeni.london)