Since Wagamama, Hakkasan and Yauatcha, Alan Yau seems to be making it increasingly tricky to pronounce the names of his enterprises. The last one, a Bangkok cafe called NaamYaa, maybe even suffered from this, although most seem now to have got their tongues round the Thai chain Busaba Eathai. Until we have the opening of Duck and Rice in a few weeks, Yau’s latest venture on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street requires a knowledge of Arabic to decipher the name of his Turkish pizza cafe.
No matter. The place is terrific, and beautifully fitted out. There is just enough glitz to hint at its eastern Mediterranean inspiration (the boldness of the shiny inky blue tiled ceiling for example), but with exceptional attention to detail on lighting. I once talked to Alan Yau in Princi about this important subject. He told me it was one of the key things he had learned while fitting out: that the correct angle of a light beam from the ceiling was 16 degrees to be the most flattering.
This obsessive attention to detail throughout is what distinguishes this premises from other more regular fit-outs. The Ladies and Gents is two floors up, but it’s worth the climb just to see the stunning taps.
This is a café, not a restaurant. No menu item is more than £10.50, and most cost between £4 and £8. Great for families then. I had a straightforward lentil soup with warm flatbread, and a salted yoghourt drink. Then an Alanya pide (Turkish-style pizza) topped with Swiss chard, sultanas and feta) £7.50 with Roasted eggplant, red pepper and pomegranate dressing. These were both disarmingly delicious, especially the pide drawn freshly from the roaring central fire. But there is much more to try on a return visit. Next time I might try a chickpea and beef stew £8 or the Topkapi chicken £8.50. Or I could just go for a raki or a glass of Turkish wine.
Don’t go expecting a Michelin star offering. It’s not that sort of place, and doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of many food bloggers who examine each dish with microscopic vision. Relax people! It’s hip, with friendly staff dressed in stunning full Turkish trousers, patterned waistbands and white structured tops. And the music is very Yau cool.
53, Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 6LB
020 3327 3888