Located on Green Lanes, this is arguably one of London's favourite Turkish restaurants. Boasting authentic cuisine and incredibly reasonable prices, it's easy to understand why people like it.
Green Lanes has been home to Antepliler since the early 1990s. This odd little restaurant walks the line between fast-food takeaway and rustic little eatery disturbingly well. In fact, if one were to look no further than the enormous brick oven at the entrance, you would probably write it off as your typical kebab joint. However, once you get past initial communication issues and secure a table, you begin to realise that the first glimpse is deceiving. Rendered walls, wrought iron light fixtures, mosaic lamps, colourful Turkish tiling and earthy ceramic flooring work together to lend an authentic feel and, if it weren't for the casually clad kitchen staff you could almost imagine you were somewhere in the Mediterranean.
This unassuming little venue remains outside of the scrutiny of mainstream London. Its reputation for authentic, home-cooked Turkish food is growing though, as illustrated by the queues at the door. Reservations and indeed organisational skills in general leave a lot to be desired: one could be generous and blame that on the language barrier, but then how would you describe a lack of timing by the kitchen that can result in an empty table for what seems like an eternity, followed by a preponderance of menu items appearing all at once? Mechanics aside, the room is typically full of happy diners of all shapes and sizes, most of whom don't seem bothered by the polite, yet markedly tepid staff. Probably because they are excited by the promise of the meal to come.
Neophytes to Turkish cuisine can certainly trust the staff to guide them through the menu. Here, the language barrier dissipates, and the staff's love and knowledge of the food takes over. The Turkish spicy suçuk is a tasty beef sausage, heavily seasoned without going overboard. It may be a bit on the dry side for those who associate sausages with a high fat mince, but it's certainly not a deal breaker. The etli hummus comes topped with sautéed lamb, which adds great dimension to a traditional preparation. For a truly unique starter, the cig kofte makes an excellent choice. Hailing from South East Turkey, this delightful dish combines raw, finely minced lamb, bulgar wheat, chilli paste and spices, and comes with cold, crisp lettuce leaves to wrap it in. Spicy and cool on the tongue, it's a true palate pleaser.
The karisk kebab, is the equivalent of a mixed grill platter and would make a good starter for two, but is served traditionally as a main. It offers a lamb shish that is nicely cooked and seasoned, a chicken shish that looks delicious but can be a bit dry, chicken wings that are crisp, crunchy, juicy and full of flavour, and some lamb ribs that are chewy, but not in a bad way. The rice accompaniment has a pleasing nutty flavour, but the noodles are not as crisp as they look whilst the chick peas seem more obligatory than necessary. A red onion salad makes a good palate cleanser and adds a crisp, pleasing texture to the mix.
If you feel like investing the time, the sebzeli etil tava is well worth the wait. Cooked to order, this delight will take close to an hour to reach the table, so plan accordingly. This is the point where your careful food choices and the kitchen's cooperative sense of timing could work quite harmoniously, but probably won't. Still, when it reaches your table, the tava will bring with it slow-cooked morsels of lamb, onions, peppers, aubergine and more in a light, tomatoey sauce packed with delicious caramelised flavours that work well with the rice provided. Follow that up with a wonderfully sweet baklava, and Bob's your uncle.
The drink menu doesn't really excite, but you can choose from the traditional assortment of soft drinks, as well as Turkish tea, Turkish coffee, and ayran (soured yoghurt with salt). Beer and wine are available too. If you're inclined toward a bottle, the house red is Villa Doluca Red Legend, which will stand up to the strong flavours of the food, but is more drinkable when it's slightly chilled.
The Last Word
Those who find fault with Antepliler are probably looking for a more traditional restaurant dining experience. If that is the criteria, then certainly, there's room for improvement. However, the stunning prices (starters £3, mains £6-£8) should put it all in perspective; what you get for your money is well worth the investment – and any perceived sacrifices in service or style.