You wouldn’t know it from looking through the big windows, but this small dining room, decorated in the standard Soho mufti of distressed walls, statement lights, colour-pop tiles and a central communal table, is an offshoot of one of the hottest restaurants in Istanbul, Yeni Lokanta. But the warmth of the welcome from the sweet young staff and a quick look at the menu (and prices) from star Turkish chef Civan Er makes it clear that, as its name promises – Yeni is the Turkish word for ‘new’ – we’re a long way from Green Lanes.
The big break with trad Turkish is to have a menu drilled down to around a dozen dishes, with the idea that two people should share four starters and one main, though anyone as hungry as we were might want to add a second main – small portions are another thing that’s new about Yeni’s re-invention of the traditional Anatolian repertoire.
Cig kofte upgraded the usual raw beef meatballs to a full-blown steak tartare, the finely minced meat fragrant with herbs and topped with a deep-fried potato ball which split open to reveal a dribbling egg yolk. Pan-fried feta tweaked the familiar cheese-and-honey combo with the addition of hazelnut and samphire to produce a very satisfying dish of cream and crunch cut through by the iodine tang of the samphire.
Our main of roasted beef ribs, spiced with isot pepper and cumin and served on a bed of sourdough to soak up the slow-cooked meat juices, also impressed; only a mushy starter of olive-oil braised celeriac seemed lacklustre, although we appreciated the occasional tastebud-jolt of anchovies.
We liked nearly everything that we ate, but we felt that prices (for both food and wine) were hard to swallow given the homely surrounds and low-key vibe, not least if you were paying for the privilege of sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers rather than at one of the smaller tables. But like the toffee-flavoured smoked butter served with toasted sourdough, Yeni does offer an eye-opening taste of modern Turkish cooking and injects a welcome dose of originality to Soho.