Hazar House of Meze, Highgate, food review: ‘Smart but hearty Turkish fare’
- Credit: Archant
Turkish food and fine dining: the concept is almost oxymoronic.
The cuisine lives and dies by its slow-cooked, on-the-bone meat, and large, sharing bowls of meze.
For many, their first – and sometimes only – encounter with Turkish food was gobbling a greasy donor kebab at 3am.
But Hazar House of Meze in Archway Road, Highgate, is hoping to change perceptions of what the cuisine can offer. Having worked at a branch of the small high-end Turkish restaurant chain, Sofra, in Mayfair, Halil Ozbaris and head chef Turker Haciolgu aim to bring Fitzrovia-quality food to Highgate at high street prices. Tucked into the parade of shops near the Archway Bridge, where Maurizio’s pizzeria used to stand, it certainly looks the part, with bare brick walls, and fuss-free furniture creating a look of simple elegance. At the back is an al fresco dining space, where diners can smoke Shisha.
We started the meal with a cocktail from the purpose-built bar and our pina coladas were creamy without being too rich and strong with rum. At a staggeringly affordable £6.95, it would be worth coming for the drinks alone. Our appetites piqued, Halil recommended we try the meze sharing platter for two, as well as an additional starter of crispy calamari (£4.90), which had a nice hit of zesty lemon. The food took its time coming, but when it did arrive, we were given a feast.
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No less than eight beautifully presented bowls of cold meze (£3.30 -£5.90 each normally) were put down in front of us, in addition to falafel, lamb and chicken skewers, lamb meatballs, herby stuffed vine leaves, and rich, crispy borek – filo pastry parcels filled with ricotta and spinach. The tabule was fragrant with parsley and was ideal with the moist falafel, and the virgin olive oil-drenched, creamy hummus. The cacik, otherwise known as tzatziki, was tangy with cucumber and mint, and red pepper added a welcome twist to the potato salad. My favourite was the abaganush – aubergine, roast tomatoes and peppers swimming in garlic. Everything was best eaten together with the juicy, tender meat, which fell apart in your mouth. Priced at £13.95 per person, the platter is a delectable bargain.
It may not be fine dining in the traditional sense, but that’s probably a good thing. At its core, Turkish food is hearty and shareable, but Hazar serves up the smartest Turkish dishes I have seen, without compromising on punchy, Mediterranean flavour.
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