Jan 30 2015

Babaji

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Babaji is a modern Turkish restaurant in Soho. It has only been open a few weeks and already is attracting a large queue outside its door (I came here for dinner on a Saturday night and had to wait in the queue outside for more than 30 minutes to get a table, but as they had hot lamps outside to warm you up whilst you wait, it was not that bad). Babaji is the latest restaurant by Alan Yau (man that used to be behind Wagamama, and now Hakkassan, Yauatcha etc empire). As I was waiting in the queue I heard some people behind me saying that his wife is Turkish, hence the inspiration for this new restaurant, which I have since found out to be true (hence there is a Hakkasan in Istanbul).

In contrast to some of the other Alan Yau’s restaurants, Babaji is cheaper and also located on Shaftsbury avenue, tourist strip, not an obvious location for a trendy restaurant. The main reason why you come to Babaji is the pide oven. Pide is a type of Turkish thin pizza, the flat bread is made with wheat flour, water and salt and then topped with various toppings and baked in a hot oven. I am a huge fan of Turkish food, and I go to Turkey a few times every year, and every time I am in a restaurant in Istanbul, I want to order the typical Turkish pide with peppers, tomatoes and minced lamb. Babaji offers many varieties of pide and if you sit downstairs on the ground floor (other option is on the first floor), where we sat, you can watch the live action of chefs preparing pide, rolling the dough, topping it with ingredients and putting it in the oven, which is located in the middle of the room. This pide is clearly very popular and when we came to Babaji we were told we had to wait 30min to get pide, as they had a lot of orders waiting to be filled. We ordered the typical Turkish pide with minced lamb, tomato and peppers that I have in Turkey called “Kiymali Pide”, and it was nice, yet slightly for me lacked that authentic taste I get in Turkey, and also cost £9, which they can get away with, but is slightly on the expensive side for a pide. The other pide that the waitress recommended for us to have was with cheese and sucuk (the typical Turkish slightly spicy sausage), and this was like a cheesier version of American hot pizza, but very tasty. Babaji also offers a wonderful selection of vegetarian pide. I have not seen such a selection of pide anywhere in Turkey, and they were good at Babaji, although as I said I did feel like some sort of Turkish authentic element, that I can’t quite nail down, was missing.

Besides the Turkish pide, Babaji also offers a wide selection of Turkish meze and some larger size dishes. From the meze section, we ordered wine leaves stuffed with rice, fried calamari, grilled halloumi cheese, artichoke and beetroot salad, grilled aubergine and pepper salad, as well as the tomato and walnut salad. I love the Turkish traditional tomato and walnut salad and have it every time that I am in Turkey. Babaji served a version of it, that was too watery and where the tomatoes had been cut up too thinly versus the original one they serve in Turkey, and the tiny portion was ridiculous, but I still liked the taste. The grilled halloumi and the fried calamari were just like you would expect to find these dishes. The aubergine and pepper salad felt authentic and had a nice flavour to it. The artichoke and beetroot salad was a modern take on Turkish food, very enjoyable with slightly crunchy vegetables, and the wine leaves were tasty, moist with a firm filling, like they should have.

The three larger size/ main course dishes we ordered were the stuffed chicken with rice called Topkapi chicken (named after the Ottoman palace), fried whitebait with pickled onion and a stew with beef. The Topkapi chicken was the favourite main course of our dinner group and had chicken thigh meat made into a ball, which was stuffed with chicken and then roasted. It sort of sounds simple when you describe it, but it had a nice moorish/ fried taste to it, it was delicious, and you wanted to eat more of it, the simple things like chicken and rice, can be the best. The whitebait were nice, could have maybe been a bit more crispier, but with the pickled onion were good to eat. The stew was decent as well.

Babaji also has an impressive Turkish wine list, although they did not have any sparkling wine or champagne which my friends and I wanted to drink, as we were going out partying later on. Babaji takes traditional Turkish dishes and makes them slightly modern. For Turkish food I still prefer the authentic Turkish restaurants in East/ North London, just because I like authentic Turkish food, and Babaji with the modern take did not blow me away, but it is a fun place. Babaji makes Turkish food cool, fun, modern and something you want to eat before a night out, which no other Turkish restaurant in London has managed to do. It is a nice introductory restaurant for people that don’t know much about Turkish food.

Date: 30/ 01/ 15
Price for 4 people with alcohol: £119.57
Location: Soho

Babaji on Urbanspoon

Maija rated: 

3.50

Location: 

Babaji
53 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LB
London
United Kingdom
GB
Babaji Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3.5