Yo-yoing between Turkish and Greek cuisines, this Soho grill isn’t quite sure where its culinary expertise lies. Nevertheless, Hovarda (‘vagabond’ in Turkish) is an enchanting spot, its glamorous dining room decked out in aquatic blue and gold tones, its waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. “We really felt the Aegean vibe”, noted one fan.
Proceedings begin with the ubiquitous small plates, but the results are accomplished and impressive. Rings of battered squid are dipped in a sharp squid-ink sauce; strips of coal-roasted red pepper are enlivened by hints of mint and lime zest; raw red mullet arrives über-fresh with juicy chunks of tomato and avocado; crispy rolls of filo pastry contrast well with their delicate crab meat filling (although we thought its accompanying lemon sauce was superfluous).
More substantial mains might bring wood-roasted baby chicken with corn and spelt or Josper-grilled octopus with roasted pepper sauce, but our dish of the night was an intensely smoky, delectably tender ox cheek paired with thick baba ganoush. We’d also recommend staying put for dessert – our pick being the miniature balls of fried pastry (lokma) that arrive drizzled with sweet-as-can-be thyme honey, a sprinkling of walnuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
On your way out, stop by the stand-alone cocktail bar for one of its diverting concoctions – perhaps a Meraki Mule, a Turkish Martini or a signature Hovarda (raki, Belvedere vodka, cardamom, Greek yoghurt, brown sugar and espresso). Service veers towards over-attentive and prices can add up, but overall Hovarda is a welcome addition to Rupert Street’s already impressive gastronomic scene.