A Must-Visit Turkish Restaurant in London-Babaji

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Turkish cuisine is regarded as one of the best ones in the world, and trust me, I’m not telling this because I’m Turkish – it genuinely is in so many ways!

The traces of the traditional Ottoman cuisine and the flavours of different cuisines such as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ones, renders Turkish cuisine very extensive and rich. There are literally so many delicious dishes that can appeal to anyone’s taste. Besides the famous kebabs, pastries and heavenly desserts, there are also light and healthy but absolutely delicious vegetable dishes with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) and amazing appetizers (mezeler) in this unique cuisine.

So when I’m in London, I sometimes literally crave Turkish food and I’m really happy that there are some good Turkish restaurants here. I haven’t been to all of them but among the ones that I’ve visited, Babaji is probably the best in terms of the food, the service, the design, the location – in summary everything :)

Babaji is located in Soho, close to Chinatown and it’s owned by Alan Yau, the name behind some of London’s best restaurants such as Hakkasan and Yauatcha.

The story behind the name “Babaji” is that when Alan Yau comes to Istanbul, he hears someone calling their father “babacım”, ( daddy ) and he really likes the way it sounds, so he interprets the word as “Babaji”. This choice of name is meaningful and appropriate also because it’s easily remembered and rhythmical, and the letter “a” is dominant, just like in Yau’s other restaurants’ names – Hakkasan, Wagamama, Busaba and Yautacha.

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The restaurant is named as pide salonu, which can be translated to English as pizzeria, however don’t be fooled by the name – besides an amazing selection of pide’s (Turkish style pizza – boat-shaped flat bread with a variety of toppings), the menu is filled with some of the signature Turkish appetizers, meat and vegetable dishes, and desserts!

From the appetizers, I definitely recommend cacık (yogurt with garlic & cucumber) , kısır (bulgur wheat salad) , oven baked halloumi , karides güveç ( shrimps with tomato & kaşar cheese, cooked in traditional Turkish clay pot) and börek (filo pastry filled with cheese & spinach)

Kısır & Cacık
Kısır & Cacık

As for beverage I strongly suggest ayran (traditional Turkish salted yogurt drink) and of course Turkish coffee after your meal, which is served in a copper coffee pot and is probably my favourite beverage in the world!

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Since I prefer traditional pide’s, I’ve tried their pide develi (pide topped with diced beef, tomato, Turkish green pepper & parsley) and kıymalı pide (pide with minced lamb, tomato & pepper) and both of them were very good, but you can surely choose other kinds of pide’s from the menu based on your taste, as there are so many options with great combinations of ingredients.

Kıymalı Pide
Kiymali Pide

When it comes to other main courses from the stove & grill, the ones that you shouldn’t miss are mantı (traditional Turkish dumplings with beef, yogurt, Turkish chili flake & butter) , kuru fasulye (white bean stew with tomato & red chilli) , külbastı (grilled lamb with tomato sauce and yogurt) and dolma (vine leaf stuffed with minced beef & rice)

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Manti

From the desserts, you should certainly try künefe (sweet cheese pastry soaked in syrup ) and baklava (with pistachio & vanilla ice cream)! Back in Turkey I prefer baklava without pistachio, but it’s a matter of choice and many people enjoy it this way as well.

Künefe
Künefe

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Finally, I’ve recently found out that they also serve weekend brunch between 11:00 – 16:30, and if you’ve read my previous post you know this news made me more than happy!

I checked out the menu and they almost have everything that needs to be there in a traditional Turkish breakfast/brunch. For those who are curious what are the main dishes in a Turkish breakfast, the ones from the menu are söğüş (chopped cucumbers & vine tomatoes) , Gemlik black olives, feta cheese, pan-fried halloumi, jam, simit, menemen (Turkish style scrambled eggs with tomato & peppers) or sucuklu yumurta (Turkish sausage “sucuk” and fried eggs)

The design of Babaji is truly impressive and unique with special details, made by a world-wide known Turkish design studio named Autoban. The beautiful handcrafted ceramic tiles that cover the walls and ceilings, the Iznik tile designs on some of the tables, and the inlaid brass details used in the wood tabletops reflect the traditional Turkish culture in a wonderful way.

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The restaurant is on three levels, on the ground floor you can see how the pide’s are made from where you’re sitting, as in the middle there’s an open space with a large stone oven where the chefs are baking the pides. On the first floor, there’s a more spacious dining area, and on the basement there’s a smaller one and the kitchen.

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The service of the restaurant reveals the well-known Turkish hospitality once again, with almost all-Turkish staff welcoming you  in a warm and friendly way, and providing a quick and attentive service throughout the meal.

The philosophy of Babaji is simple – presenting the traditional Turkish culture with a modern interpretation, and reflecting its warmth and sincerity without exaggeration, in a natural way – for example by playing the common Turkish songs in the background and using the traditional, thin glass cups that are used to serve tea in Turkey.

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In my opinion Babaji represents the Turkish culture in a decent and impressive way, with all the hidden details and the apparent effort and thought that has been given to all parts of the restaurant.

Note: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so depending on the time of day you visit there’s a chance that you’ll have to wait for a while, but you can order from the restaurant through online delivery services as well!

So, to summarize, if you’re interested in Turkish cuisine and want to try the delicious Turkish dishes for reasonable prices in a unique atmosphere, then you should definitely pay a visit to Babaji!

Address: 53 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LB

www.babaji.com.tr

 

 

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Guest Post- Breakfast at Honey & Co.

This is the first guest post that I’m featuring on my blog so it’s pretty exciting for me! It’s written by Jaime Tung, the talented author and creator of angloyankophile.com – an award-winning blog full of her amazing adventures and discoveries as an American in London – and in many other parts of the world! Thank you so much Jaime for your contribution, it’s awesome to have you on dilaland.com! 

Breakfast at Honey & Co., Warren Street

As we inch closer and closer to Christmas, I’m having a hard time keeping up with my work schedule, let alone my social calendar (just ask Dila, since it’s taken me forever to get this post to her!). Now, there aren’t a lot of people I’d wake up at 6:00 a.m. for, but my friend Alice is an exception. Since we both work in the same part of London, one of our favorite traditions is to grab breakfast before work. It’s great, because unlike lunch, we don’t feel as rushed, and it’s such a nice way to start the day. When Alice and I worked in the same office, we used to have a favorite breakfast hangout (until it closed a few months ago), where we ordered the same thing every time, and even sat at the same table! I know, we’re nerds like that.
This time, we met at Honey & Co. on Warren Street, which specialises in delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. Slight issue? I totally forgot about our plans! We were supposed to meet at 8:00 a.m. and at 7:21, I was still tucked up in bed, chuckling at cat videos on YouTube. So cool, right? Then I got a text from her that said, “My train is far too busy at this time in the morning! See you soon!” To say that I leapt out of bed would be an understatement. I grabbed the nearest clothes, put my contacts in with one hand, and flew out the door. I was only 5 minutes late, which was an achievement! “I literally woke up like this,” I said to Alice breathlessly as I rushed into the restaurant.
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 But! The breakfast menu at Honey & Co. was the best reward for rushing out the door. In fact, any menu that features a “dinosaur egg” is a winner in my books! It’s smallish, so if you’re thinking of going for dinner, I’d book ahead of time. They serve an extended breakfast menu on the weekends, but on the weekdays, you still get a hearty serving of warm dishes like “Green shakshuka” (Legbar eggs baked on herby spinach with goat’s yogurt and bread) and “Phylas” (filo pastry filled with pumpkin, spices, feta yogurt and a hardboiled egg). I ended up ordering the “Ijje” – a herb, feta, and buttered leek frittata plus a fresh mint tea, which was such a nice change from the limp bacon sandwiches and dry pancakes you might find at every other breakfast establishment.
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© 2015 angloyankophile.com
 We stayed for an hour or so, catching up on life (we both bought houses around the same time this year!) and work – and never felt rushed. The fun, brightly-colored decor made me feel as though we were on holiday in Tel-Aviv instead of starting the workday in Central London. I could have easily stayed longer for a coffee, but the clock soon struck 9:00 and, like Cinderella, it was time for us to leave the proverbial breakfast ball.
I had my eye on Honey & Co.’s cookbooks, which I thought would make a great Christmas gift for my brother-in-law, who loves to cook.
I’m looking forward to going back for dinner soon! I’ve heard that their desserts are the stuff of legends.
Do you ever go out for a nice, sit-down breakfast before work? I’d love to know!
Huge thanks to Dila for hosting me on her blog!
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 I hope you enjoyed Jaime’s lovely post as much as I did! Be sure to check out her inspiring blog full of amazing photos, reviews, recommendations, discoveries and so much more :)

Restaurant Recommendation – Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi Open Delicatessen Counter

There are probably only a few things that I love more than discovering different restaurants with delicious food.

Ottolenghi is one of those restaurants, it’s definitely one of my favorites in London for many reasons. It’s a perfect place for the ones looking for healthy but at the same time incredibly tasty and good value food, mainly from Mediterranean & Middle Eastern cuisines.

The restaurant has four branches – in Spitalfields, Notting Hill, Islington and Belgravia. I’ve been to the ones in Islington and Spitalfields, I think they’re both great in terms of service, ambience and decoration. I went there always for lunch, as in my opinion the atmosphere is more suitable for lunch, but you could surely go for dinner as well if you wish.

Their open delicatessen counter is mouth watering, with heavenly desserts on one side, and healthy but delicious salads and side dishes on the other.

For lunch, you can choose different salads from their great selection, either with or without a main course. They also have delicious pastries that could be considered light :)

I have to mention their desserts one more time as the ones that I tried were absolutely amazing. You should definitely try some of them if you haven’t yet – you won’t regret it!

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Perfect lunch for two
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English beef with mustard, with aubergine, sweet potato and lentils

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P.S: There’s usually a long queue at the Islington branch of the restaurant, so going there early would be the best.

Check out their website for more information on the food, prices and more: www.ottolenghi.co.uk

Have you been to Ottolenghi before? Comment to let me know!