Zahter, London: ‘The best baklava I have ever eaten’ – restaurant review | Food


Zahter, 30-32 Foubert’s Place, London W1F 7PS ( Cold and hot
meze £9-£18, platters £18-£42, desserts £8-£9, wines from £29

The Instagram accounts I observe, just like the gummy jars of condiments I accumulate in my fridge, are a sizzling mess: cooks exhibiting off what they knocked up final night time; carpetbagging meals “influencers” whose brass neck enthrals however doesn’t affect me; jazz pianists providing helpful ideas; Grace Dent, as a result of who wouldn’t need a window on her fabulous life? By far probably the most entertaining is @yemelerdeyizcom, a Turkish food and drinks account, which posts countless movies of simply two issues: lamb kebabs being made, and portioned rounds of baklava being completed and boxed. The latter are all the time lovely. There’s the ladling of the steaming syrup, the shiny golden curve of the filo pastry and the sensible inexperienced of the crushed pistachios. Watching these movies is just not probably the most embarrassing on-line displacement exercise for a middle-aged man, but it surely’s bloody shut. Best to have it on the market.

Just like the tragic rainbow chaser that I am, I had all the time assumed this to be the very best baklava doable: the platonic supreme of the polyamorous marriage of pistachios, filo and syrup, and one which I ought to aspire to expertise. Then I was served the baklava at Zahter, a brand new restaurant off London’s Carnaby Road which re-examines the Turkish repertoire. It’s not Instagram lovely or it could be, however within the low gentle it’s inconceivable to see. (Go test my Insta the place I am @jayrayner1, and I will have posted an image.) However by God, it’s good; so good that its gorgeousness couldn’t be relegated to the top of this column when I could be quick on area.

‘The flavour of the pistachio is allowed its voice’: baklava. {Photograph}: Sophia Evans/The Observer

There may be not one of the mouth-drying, friable confetti of overbaked filo. It’s gentle and luscious. Too typically baklava may be cloyingly oversweet, just like the maker has some aspect hustle knocking out insulin and is trying to recruit new clients. That is completely balanced so the flavour of the pistachio can also be allowed its voice and, simply to be on the protected aspect, there’s a quenelle of thick cream. It’s fairly merely the best baklava I have ever eaten.

It’s a large symphonic coda, a giant thump of brass and strings on the finish of a meal which, to increase a metaphor till it snaps, was huge on cheery melodies and harmonies. Zahter, the Turkish identify for a wide range of wild thyme, occupies a tottering nook web site with a cheery view of the road life exterior. It’s the first standalone enterprise from Turkish chef Esra Muslu. After coaching in Australia, she ran a collection of eating places in Istanbul earlier than being recruited as head chef of Soho Home within the metropolis. From there she moved to an identical function on the firm’s outpost in London’s Shoreditch after which to Ottolenghi in Spitalfields.

‘A victory of a day’s preparation’: stuffed globe artichoke.
‘A victory of a day’s preparation’: stuffed globe artichoke. {Photograph}: Sophia Evans/The Observer

The menu, constructed round each a wooden and a charcoal-burning oven, is a wandering journey throughout Turkey. From the south be certain to order the stuffed globe artichoke. Additionally be certain to carry an enthusiastic buddy that will help you eat it. The £16 price ticket seems chunky within the excessive till it arrives. It’s a very massive, mature flower and a victory of a day’s preparation. After simmering in acidulated water, the choke is eliminated, the leaves put again in place on to the center and trimmed. Whereas it’s nonetheless heat, it’s bathed in a aromatic lemony dressing. Then comes a stuffing of rice, spiced with cinnamon and allspice, lemon juice and handfuls of recent inexperienced herbs. The stuffing is pushed in between each leaf, into each nook and cranny. Lastly, it’s piled with extra chopped inexperienced herbs, toasted almonds and glossy pomegranate seeds. There’s a still-warm wedge of roasted lemon on the highest for an additional squeeze. It’s a kind of completely engrossing and formidable dishes, which attracts you in a single leaf at a time.

That and the baklava would make a sustaining dinner, however I perceive my obligations. There should be extra. We have an ovenware dish of tiger prawns roasted in frothing lakes of garlic butter, hefty with Aleppo pepper, which leaves juices behind that demand to be mopped away with their ethereal breads. We have roasted and crusted rooster livers beneath bales of recent inexperienced herbs. Solely a fava bean purée with grape slices that have been doused within the anise-boosted spirit raki doesn’t fairly hit the spot, being overly candy. For stability, we flip to the part of the menu headed platters, and a fairly magnificent dish of dense lamb kofta with white beans, recent crimson chilli and additional handfuls of flat leaf, all piled on to a flat bread cheerfully absorbing the very essence of what has been shovelled on prime of it.

‘Roasted in frothing lakes of garlic butter’: tiger prawns.
‘Roasted in frothing lakes of garlic butter’: tiger prawns. {Photograph}: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Then comes half a roasted quince, and at last that baklava with a capital B. Zahter has been open only some weeks when I go to, and is buying and selling into troublesome circumstances, however nonetheless has a youthful buzz and assuredness to it. It looks like a mature restaurant although not, it should be mentioned, one aimed essentially at a mature clientele. On this week’s Observer Food Month-to-month my common column is a plea for brand spanking new eating places to make use of somebody who’s at the least of their 50s to assist choose the surroundings they’re constructing. I can’t faux. All the pieces I bitch about in that column is current right here at Zahter. I do have to make use of my iPhone torch to learn the menu. The piped music and the exhausting surfaces make for a clattering acoustic. The upstairs eating room is reached through vertiginous stairs. For good measure the tables are too small for the best way through which the kitchen sends out the dishes abruptly. We find yourself with our wine and water bottle on the ground subsequent to us.

If Zahter doesn’t need older gits like me of their restaurant, whining concerning the lighting and the sound and the desk dimension, then tremendous. However there’s a problem. Zahter’s meals is nice. There’s additionally worth right here, however it’s not low-cost. The quick wine listing begins at £29 a bottle earlier than heading into the 30s and past. As the knowledge on the prime exhibits, the dishes are, let’s consider, boldly priced. The ultimate £150 invoice doesn’t really feel extortionate for this meals and this service and this location. However maybe flip the music down and the lights up somewhat so that you don’t danger excluding an entire demographic who could best be capable to afford it. My motives are pure. I actually do need as many individuals as doable to take pleasure in that fabulous baklava.

Information bites

Nepalese chef Santosh Shah, who received an enormous following when he made it to the finals of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2020, is releasing his first cookbook. Ayla: A Feast of Nepali Dishes from Terai, Hills and the Himalayas contains recipes for rooster momos with ginger and chilli, plantain curry, river fish with mustard and onion sauce in addition to a bunch of spice mixes, pickles and chutneys. It’s printed on 3 February. Discover out extra here.

On 22 January the legendary jazz membership Ronnie Scott’sis internet hosting a musical instrument amnesty. From 10am till 3pm anybody can drop off unloved or undesirable devices to the membership on London’s Frith Road; from plastic recorders by means of to violins, brass devices and something in between (however not pianos for storage causes). In partnership with Julian Lloyd Webber’s charity, Sistema England and the Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Basis, they are going to then be donated to school-age youngsters each within the UK and elsewhere. Potential donors wanting extra data ought to e mail

Solely A Pavement Away, the charity providing hospitality abilities and coaching to jail leavers, veterans and people going through homelessness, has introduced it is going to be opening coaching cafés in 10 UK cities by the top of 2022. All those that employees them will obtain {qualifications}, with the goal of getting 250 individuals into hospitality trade jobs by the top of the yr. Go to

E-mail Jay at or observe him on Twitter @jayrayner1


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