Hanedan smells and looks
good. It has a fantastic extraction system. (Believe
me this comes to matter to any critic who doesn’t
want to walk out smelling like a chip.) Decorative
tiles and atmospheric wrought-iron lighting create
that grand bazaar feeling, a memory of the domes and
minarets of the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul.
The food is
down-the-line Turkish with no deviations which I
consider to be a good thing. My experience of food
in Turkey is that it is usually delicious and very
much home-made. A Turkish friend, Memhet, explained
to me once that this is because older Turkish women
do not mind spending labour-intensive hours stuffing
pastry with marvellous fillings of their own making.
Turkish mothers vie with Jewish ones when it comes
to showing love by feeding their offspring.
The proprietor of
Hanedan, Gursel Bahar, is male. He seems to do the
cooking here and makes a charming and expansive host
who obviously takes much pride in what he does.
Starving as a result of our delayed start, we
demolished a series of fresh meze. They featured a
well-balanced hommus, soft creamy beans, a bit like
small butter beans, slowly stewed in olive oil,
minty stuffed vine leaves, a garlicky Ispanakli
yoghurt with spinach and carrot, bouncy oven-baked
lamb meat balls and herkes bayildi, translated as
‘everyone fainted’, a play on ‘imam bayildi’,
meaning ‘the imam fainted’, the name of the
celebrated slow-cooked dish of melting aubergine and
onions, so named because it causes people to swoon
with pleasure. And this one was a good example of
its kind. I have only one criticism of the starters:
they were served too cold which deadens the flavours.
Items like imam bayildi are best at room
temperature. But then, try explaining that to an
environmental health officer when he arrives with
his temperature probe.
Moussaka is one of
the world’s great comfort dishes. Like great lasagne,
it looks and sounds deceptively simple, but there is
an art to making it. Once again, Hanedan came up
trumps with its light but satisfying layers of
finely minced, richly meaty, but not fatty, lamb
cooked with just the right amount of almost
dissolved tomato, supporting aubergine cooked to
fondant softness, stabilised by potatoes, then
topped with an ever-so-slightly cinnamon-scented
egg-yolk enriched white sauce.The Turks, like the
Greeks, are brilliant at cooking lamb and our
cutlets were a glowing example. They had been well
seasoned with dried herbs and, I think, sumac – a
slightly sour-tasting red berry – and chargrilled
very slowly while we ate the starters. The result
was glorious, full-flavoured meat still amazingly
pink and juicy within. These came with excellent
buttery-flavoured rice, fresh chilli sauce and cacik
(yoghurt with cucumber).
tokenistic; a workaday baklava, chocolate cake or
ice cream. The focus is obviously on savoury dishes.
While that emphasis is understandable, the sweet
offerings could be given an effortless facelift by
adding those plump fresh Turkish figs (while in
season), a fresh orange salad dressed with orange
flower water or even that exquisite
rosewater-perfumed light rice pudding.
But otherwise, so
much is just right here, not least the prices. A
slightly spritzy Turkish Villa Doluca wine at £10.50
was much more than drinkable. Starters don’t go
above £3.80; the most expensive main course is
£8.75. You can have two courses, albeit limited
choice, for £7.95 yet the quality of ingredients is
high. And what a relief to eat in a restaurant with
a clear identity which has its feet firmly grounded
in centuries of culinary tradition.