Tike Mediterranean Grill and Bar
Stephen Higginson sampled some delicious Turkish Delight!
For most of us, eating out in the square mile of the City of London means one thing - lunch. Only one or two brave establishments open their doors after the last late lunchers have hit the streets at around tea time! A walk on those same streets after 7 p.m. will tell you why very few destination restaurants can be found in EC3 and EC4 – both the pavements and the roads are empty. 1 Lombard Street, Coq D’Argent and Bonds are some of the few that make it to 11pm – plus a medley of Chinese and Indian restaurants , and, of course good old Pizza Express!
So, with well priced good food sparse once the bankers have headed home, it is a pleasure to welcome newcomer Tike ( pronounced Teekay) Mediterranean Grill and Bar to the heart of the City – in a pleasant small square adjacent to Fenchurch Street Station . For the record, Tike is a Turkish word for small portions of charcoal grilled lamb.
The restaurant occupies the ground and first floor of a sleek Richard Rogers ( Lord Rogers to you!) Lloyds Register building which – with its modern all-glass frontage and touches of arty coloured lighting - presents an enticing, and very contemporary looking prospect after dark.
This is the first Tike in London, and others are planned, but the name is well known and revered in Istanbul, where it is an up-market brand – established in 1998 - targeting young professionals with authentic Turkish cuisine. As a consequence, manager Tomas Moravec ( no, not Turkish, Czech, but we are in wonderful multi cultural London here!) reports that Tike is already becoming a destination restaurant - at least for the many Turks living in London. “ Sometimes the evening is busier than lunchtime” he recounted, as he introduced us to a very acceptable Turkish light dry red wine –Yakut - from Anatolia. Although not yet on the printed menu – so you have to ask - three Turkish wines are stocked behind the bar, and the starting point for all wines is a reasonable £14, and many are available by the glass.
The evening that I and my companion dined at Tike, it was mid week and cold and damp, so only the more informal and buzzy ground floor was in use, where the cool looking long bar has a warming pink under lighting, which gives the whole chic area – modern dark woods and leather but with Turkish touches - a warm glow. Another warm glow comes from the stone oven operating at one end of the bar – where the baker provides a constant stream of delicious hot breads and dessert pastries!
The other chefs – all from Istanbul – work out of sight, and use the freshest of ingredients including lamb, which is butchered for the restaurant daily, to create rustic dishes which nevertheless have considerable style and finesse.
We began with a couple of hot starters to share. Perde Pilav – rice with spicy chicken, dried fruits and nuts, wrapped in filo pastry ( £3.95) and wonderful crispy Mucver – deep fried cougettes and cheese fritters (£3.75). Both had that indefinable freshness that comes with ‘home made’ food, and to us non-Turks, both tasted original and very authentic.
Next we chose two hand made items from the bread oven menu – Lahmajun – thin crispy bread topped with minced meat, herbs and spices (£4,74) and Pide – slim hand rolled pies ( like small Cornish pasties), stuffed with kisir cheese and vegetables (£5.75). The former was fine but not special, but the Pide were sumptuous; a real discovery – soft, rich and subtle.
The so called ‘Big Plates’ on the menu are divided into lamb dishes and chicken dishes. From the 11 lamb dishes on offer we chose Adana Kofte Kebab (£7.25), and were not disappointed, although the other items were equally seductive; all costing less than £10
The kebab consists of charcoal grilled spicy ground lamb with mixed herbs on lavash bread, with spiced tomato chilli and green paper, garnished with onion and chilli powder, sumac and garlic. Once again, the overall impression was of breathtaking freshness and authenticity, at once familiar - it was a kebab after all - yet somehow infused with intense and more unfamiliar flavours.
From the chicken list of seven items, one of the charming and attentive staff guided us towards Tavuc Shish – marinated barbequed chicken shish kebab – with rice, tomatoes and green pepper (£6.85). My note says “Perfect”! To this we added a side dish of Bulgur Pilav (£2.50), soft cracked bulgur wheat scented with spices, olive oil and butter. A gentle aromatic, textured delight.
Our hearts sank at the thought of dessert – being already happy and replete with fresh and delicious flavours and generous portions. We relented , and were encouraged by Tomas Moravec to sample the Tikepare (£2.95) a selection of baklava bites which included a unique house speciality – chocolate baklava - “ divine” said my companion - plus a portion of home made Mastica ice cream. The latter has a fascinating flavour – from the sap of the lentisk tree - which can be likened to nothing else, so do try it. A little confusingly, the lentisk is a Greek plant, but there is none of the old Turkish/Greek animosity here; they even have a Greek waite
Tike is a genuinely pleasurable experience and is also great value for money. They use the best, fresh ingredients -. all lamb is reared in UK RSPCA approved farms, and the chicken is from approved EU sources - and the traditional style of the cooking ensures a refreshing home cooked quality to all the dishes. If you think, having eaten Greek food, that you will be over familiar with Tikes offer, you would be wrong. There’s some overlap, but this Turkish style has its own distinct character – and well worth seeking out - for both your palate and their prices!
Stephen Higginson January 2010
Tike, 5 Fenchurch Place, London EC3 4AJ
Open Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 10.30 pm(last orders).
Reservations: 020 7702 9965