The Iskelé (Mediterranean) – Barbican
The Iskelé in Barbican is an award-winning eatery which, only this year, was recognised as the nation’s Best Value restaurant at the British Kebab Awards.
Having been open for a decade now, this Meditarranean Bar & Grill was, on the evening of 0ur visit, packed to its dark wooden rafters.
While the many small Moroccan-style lanterns manage to create a warm ambience, The Iskelé’s rustic decor is made apparent by the many other decorative wall ornaments that include: candles complete with a melted wax effect, ornate carpet rugs, and even an old musket piece.
Overall, however, the restaurant has a warm, welcoming ambience about it and has a capacity of 120 indoors, and a sizeable 84 outdoors.
Of the quartet of beverages that made our way, the Virgin Mary stood head and shoulders above the rest. Its unmistakable hit of Worcestershire sauce was strong without being overbearingly; but this was certainly one of the better ones we’ve had.
The weakest, however, was the Lolita – essentially a spruced up orange drink, with perhaps a touch of lemon to it.
While we were greeted also with a disappointingly insipid Virgin Pina Colada, where neither the coconut nor the pineapple really stood out, the Virgin Mojito, though not as rousing as we would have liked, was refreshingky well balanced.
As for the Iron, then it was what it was – fresh with a hint of salt.
STARTERS - COLD MEZE
- Cold Meze: Houmous (V), Broad Beans (V), Tabbouleh (V), Aubergine Ratatouille (V).
- Hot Meze: Borek (V), Falafel (V), Halloumi Cheese (V), Chicken on Wooden Skewers, Lamb on Wooden Skewers, Lamb Kofte.
Note that ours was for three persons and came with baked bread.
We also ordered a number of additional classic Turkish cold mezes.
Despite being tasty with a hint of sourness to it, this Houmous was slightly on the grainy side. We prefer ours smooth à la Maroush’s.
The smokiness of the aubergine certainly came through with this Baba Ghanoush. More importantly, however, it had a good texture, being neither gooey nor overly slimey as some can be.
A delightful bowl of stewed Aubergine Ratatouille which seemed to literally dissolve in the mouth. Soft, with a lovely tanginess to it, this still managed to retain some bite.
This crunchy Tabbouleh had just the right amount of lemon to allow the freshness of the parsley, mint and finely diced onions to come through. A good one.
A plate of standard Baby Broad Beans atop slightly sour yoghurt. Nothing special!
Chunks of cucumber in a mildly sour, creamy yoghurt is what defined this Tzatziki.
This was arguably the best of the cold mezes and bemusing as to why it wasn’t on the actual menu.
A simple yet delicious chilli concoction which, though usually presented as a paste, was instead diced with finely chopped onions mixed in with tomatos and red pepper. A hint of chilli and a touch of smokiness from the peppers were the main flavours here, and so good that we asked for seconds to accompany some of the following meat dishes. Superb!
STARTERS - HOT MEZE
The best of this trio of kebabs was the Mitete Kofte, with attractive griddle marks across the top that ensured a beautiful charred taste. Texturally, it was chewy thanks to the kofte’s fat content.
As for the Wooden Skewers, then while the chicken was beautifully succulent with a subtle marinade, the Lamb was a little too fatty, and thus overly chewy. Nonetheless, it tasted okay.
A Halloumi Cheese that isn’t rubbery will always be a good’un with us.
Despite the crunchy Falafel, covered in sesame seeds, wasn’t anything special, things were redeemded by the Borek, at least in terms of taste with its smooth, cheesy interior; though the filo pastry exterior failed to turn out crispy.
STEAKS & CHARGRILLS
For one, it was simply far too fatty in content resulting in an ultra-chewy mouthful.
What’s worse, was the fact that this non-rendered fat was almost crunchy in places.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the entire skewer was, we all concluded, over seasoned.
This was presented with a tomato sauce that really shouldn’t have had any earthly business being paired up with a kebab.
In spite of these shortcomings, however, the Adana was soft and juicy, slightly fatty, and very well cooked.
The rice, however, certainly seemed reheated.
Otherwise, these were pink on the inside and soft and beautifully tender, with a fantastic char on the outside.
Nevertheless, these were your standard sized chops, which, for £14.95, seemed a touch dear.
The best of the main dishes had on the evening though!
SPECIALS & CASSEROLES
The Lamb Tagine split the crowd. Though one Lion literally dismissed this as a flavourless “dead dish”, the other two, while agreeing to an extent that the meat was definitely bland, weren’t as dismissive.
The lamb itself was soft and so effortlessly slipped off the bone. And though fatty in places, which was to be expected given its cut, the prunes therein were soft and well mixed in with, what was it has to be said, a vapid gravy. As such, the carrots and courgettes were desperately needed as compensation for a dish that, otherwise, would have been a disappointing one.
Take, for instance, the Salmon which was overcooked and positively dry. The same was also true of the thin slither of Sea Bass.
And while the Stir Fried Vegetables were decently cooked, the sauce was far too salty to enjoy.
The only redeeming factor with this dish were the King Prawns – soft with a touch of springiness, and a slightly salty aftertaste.
Given that this dish was grilled could be the reason for it turning out dry.
Whatever the case, it was extremely poor!
What a superb dessert this Ottoman Kadayif was. With an ultra-crispy make up, this was utterly different.
The sweet syrup poured over the top married so well with the cream filling that it had us coming back for spoon after spoon.
Although this wasn’t exactly the most attractive dish of the evening, despite a valiant attempt to the contrary, it certainly tasted far better than it looked.
The apricots were indeed warm, with a lovely, slighty bitter aftertaste that was countered by the apricot jam. With glazed walnuts on top that provided a textural contrast, the entire dish was well tempered by the clotted cream.
The Baklava were you standard type: the pistachio chewy and subtle; the almond decent; and the walnut gooey and true.
If you haven’t had it before, then be prepared for an extremely strong, bitter brew that requires far more than a couple of Turkish Delights to help fully down.
Despite allowing it a while to properly brew, this dull Turkish Tea remained exactly that throughout.
Apple Tea, on the other hand, was far stronger and, thus, a soothing finale.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
- UBER EATS
In any case, one huge positive for The Iskelé was how well regimented all the waiters were. Despite it being a busy evening, they carried a constant smile with them along with an unstintingly positive attitude throughout as they served and catered for the requests of the customers with such professionalism that wouldn't be out of place at any high-end restaurant.
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