On the whole I was extremely disappointed with this restaurant. I am a huge fan of Turkish cuisine but there were a number of reasons why I can't in all honesty recommend it.
i) The food took too long to arrive (after repeated attempts to accelerate proceeding from our party). We sat down to dinner around 7.30pm and the main course arrived just after 10pm. We were unable to wait until dessert since The London Underground closes around midnight.
ii) I believe that the Set Menu does not present good value and for a vegetarian, the starter and main were a real let down (so much so that I was unable to eat the vegetarian main even though I was pretty peckish by the time it finally surfaced).
The cold and hot meze had little to no merit (Veg. Cold Meze: A few dips and a small piece of watermelon mushed up on a plate including Tarama which the last time I heard was not vegetarian though the waiting staff were too harried to pay it much attention, as nice as they were. Hot Meze: One salty, cheese overly fried parcel. Both accompanied by luke warm pitta bread).
The non-veg equivalent for the hot meze including the same salty cheese parcel and a few cubes of liver which my wife didn't appear greatly enamoured with.
Vegetarian Main: Two small scoops of plain rice, a hunk of ice berg lettuce on the side, two grilled onion slices, three thin slices of grilled aubergine and a couple of grilled chillis.
I realise that we did visit around the festive period but if a restaurant is unable to cope then they should only allow as many diners as they are able to serve properly.
Though as I have mentioned, the waiters were trying to be as pleasant as possible, on the occassions that we did see them followed shortly thereafter by an appearance of the Yetti and a flock of dodos.
If you're dining in London then I would recommend any other Turkish restaurant (including your local kebab shop).
From the food to the decor to the live entertainment, Efes 2 is authentically Turkish in every way. It’s also generous, reasonably priced and extremely good fun.
As its name would suggest, Efes 2 has a sibling restaurant – Efes 1 just a stone’s throw away on Great Titchfield Street. Though not well known amongst the masses, this has become a favourite amongst London’s Turkish population, prompting this second opening. They differ in only one way – Efes 2 has a basement offering live entertainment. Halfway down Great Portland Street, Efes 2 won’t jump out as a first choice amongst the myriad of other, slightly more polished restaurants. It’s not that it’s inconspicuous - ornamental statues and neon lights make it anything but – it just has an air of ‘70s throwback to it. Stepping inside, though, this old fashioned-ness is soon redefined as authenticity. Turkish lamps adorn the ceiling and the walls are decorated in intricate Ottoman Turkish style. Even the menu is written in Turkish as well as English.
Efes 2’s set menus are a few pounds more if you chose to eat downstairs, but what you get in return is well worth the money. At first the dim lights seem to lead into darkness, but once you’re seated and the table’s candle is lit, it becomes more atmospheric. If hanging lanterns, patterned walls and intricate mirrors aren’t enough to mentally transport diners into Turkey then the laid back yet dramatic entertainment surely will be. Live music and singing comes as an accompaniment to a main course of belly dancing which is topped off, quite literally, by the dancer balancing a sword on her head whilst gyrating around the tables. Fun is clearly paramount, and if diners are apprehensive to join in the dancing, then the waiters certainly aren’t – it’s all about having a good time.
With an extensive menu of meze and kebabs and little explanation of what these Turkish delicacies actually are, a set menu seems to be the way to go. With seven of them, there’s still a bit of deciding to do, though they differ only in which type of kebab they offer (chicken and lamb in varying combinations, plus vegetarian and fish options). Meat is clearly the way to go and at about £22 (about £20 upstairs) a mixed kebab meal eliminates the need to choose.
The starters are split into hot and cold meze, with the cold arriving within minutes of ordering. Plates are piled with delicious, albeit somewhat random, combination of olives, beetroot, watermelon, sheep cheese and borlotti beans along with assorted dips including a pleasantly salty tarama, a garlicky yoghurt and a nutty hummus. A basket of warm pita-style bread is also provided. About 15 minutes later, the hot mezze are added. A cheese-filled pastry (muska borek) and spicy sausage (sucuk) are crisp if slightly greasy whilst cubes of fried liver (arnavut cigeri) are deliciously more-ish and incredibly tender.
The main course kebab platter is just as generous. Lamb chops are charred to perfection and still ever-so-slightly pink inside; doner kebab meat is spicy with paprika and cumin; chicken breast is moist and lemony; lamb fillet is full of flavour and virtually melts in the mouth whilst fried liver is just as delicious as it was with the starters. Grilled onions, tomatoes and plenty more bread accompany the meat on the plate whilst a lemony parsley side salad included in the price of the set menu is pleasantly refreshing, as is a slightly spicy peppery tomato dip which comes to the table in a large bowl.
The pudding is next, and also comes in two parts. First is a fruit platter of melon, pineapple, watermelon, grapes and banana. This comes complete with a hollowed out orange with a candle inside and another with a sparkler inserted into it. Whether this is common in Turkey or not, it certainly adds to the fun. Accompanying this is the second part of the pudding – baklava. Though slightly greasier than many, they are clearly homemade with honey and walnut flavours standing their own against the sweetness. Though small, after such a generous meal they are perfectly adequate.
The drinks list is as authentic as the rest of the restaurant and although French and New World wines are available, it is Turkish wines which take pride of place at the top of the menu. A selection of at least five are reasonably priced for under £20 a bottle (about £5.50 by the glass). The house wines come in a couple of pounds cheaper, but inexplicably are French. The traditional Turkish spirit Raki is also available. A kind of clear brandy flavoured with aniseed, this comes served with ice and a separate bottle of water to be added as required.
Though no alcohol is included in the price of the set menu, a traditional Turkish coffee is. Served strong and black like an espresso, it’s the perfect way to round off the meal.
The Last Word
Efes 2 is hugely authentic and generous with it. Considering the quality and quantity of food provided, it is also really good value – especially if you opt for one of the set menus.