Friday, 18 February 2011

Restaurant Review: Mekan

The small London chain specialising in Middle Eastern deli foods and mezze options has opened a new Clapham flagship with built-in bar. Here's my review for South London Press.

Mekan might not be renowned in the way that some of London’s restaurants-of-the-moment are, but for Catford locals this Turkish restaurant is well known as the being the best of the area. It’s true that Catford isn’t exactly overflowing with decent restaurants and that locals frequently flock to Dulwich, Blackheath and beyond in search of dinner, but from the praise heaped on Mekan by some regulars, it sounds as if it should be the rest of South London which is flocking to Catford. And perhaps people are, as even on a night blighted by cold, snow and ice when most people would rather stay at home, Mekan manages to be impressively full.

Aside from some raving recommendations, I had no idea at all what to expect at Mekan. Still, exposed brickwork, metal beams and an entirely modern, light and airy feel was certainly not what I had in mind of this Turkish restaurant in Catford. Although the look is more West End bistro, the menu is all traditional Turkish.

There are cold and hot meze options before a plethora of main dishes subdivided into meat, fish, vegetarian and salad categories. With 28 meze dishes to chose from, plus mixed selections, it’s easy to get carried away. Thankfully, the dishes are good enough to warrant over-eating. Pancar Salata (£3.45) is a simple but tremendously tasty dish of diced beetroot with garlic, wine vinegar, parsley, coriander, black pepper and olive oil. It’s the same liberal splashing of some very good oil which transforms Imam Bayaldi (£3.75) from a mere stuffed aubergine into a delicacy bursting with Mediterranean roasted vegetable flavours. Mekan’s version of the famous Borek (£3.65) pastry is another success. A crsip filo crust is generously filled with mushrooms, onion, spinach and feta and seasoned with a good grinding of black pepper. To my taste, the humus (£3.25) could have done with more tahini and lemon juice, but others may disagree and the soft focaccia bread which accompanied the meze selection acts as a perfecting dipping tool. Deep fried battered mussels (£4.50), which come served warm on a long skewer are another moreish treat, especially with a bit of lemon juice squeezed over them to cut through the slight greasiness.

A main course dish of diced lamb with tomatoes, pepper, onion, aubergine, garlic and mixed herbs (£10.45) sits somewhere between a tagine and a ratatouille. The lamb is meltingly tender, and the tomato base intensely flavoured from long, slow cooking. It’s worth warning that although the menu doesn’t indicate as such it is fairly spicy, with the peppers used being a hot variety. A similarly formed dish sees lamb cooked in a very reduced sauce with spices, and served on a bed of smoked aubergine puree. A traditional dish known as Hunkar Begendi (£10.45), this is a new addition to the Mekan menu and one which the team are rightfully proud. The silky textured, smoky puree could be eaten by itself, but marries perfectly with the tender lamb to make a stand-out dish that must be amongst the best Turkish food in London.

It’s easy to see why Mekan receives praise, with food that is never less than very good and more often excellent. A well-priced wine list including Turkish wines and Raki, plus the option for take-away complete the package and make the restaurant a real boost to the gastronomic status of the local area. If Mekan was in the West End, it would undoubtedly be a bigger name, but the people of Catford and the surrounding areas should be very glad that it’s not. 

Mekan,11-13 Bromley Road, Catford, SE6 2TS

No comments:

Post a Comment