As we’ve said before, Meadows Cafe is the kind of place you could walk past a thousand times without going in. But a few weeks back we were lured by its new two course evening meal (a bargainous £8.50), and surprisingly candle-lit interior.
Jazz straight out of a Woody Allen movie tinkled more noisily than you’d expect. Diners were cracking into bottles of wine. Tea-lights flickered. And with the front door open, and occasional roar of a car outside, there was a Mediterranean feel to the night.
Forget most of the menu and concentrate on the Anatolian dishes, for Meadows is essentially a quality Turkish restaurant. The family come from Istanbul. The chef has done time at the Sofra chain and Mem Laz in Islington. And the quality of their product shows. We were immediately impressed, for example, by the George Duboeuf house red at £13.
We chose broad beans and calamari to share to start. Unlike at Pizza East, the beans were cooked lightly, correctly room temperature and deliciously marinated in coriander, dill, mint, garlic and pepper. They were served with yoghurt and warm pitta. The calamari was spot-on too: crisp batter, soft and tender inside with a tasty tzatsiki dip.
The mains continued to surprise. A chicken shish was tender, without being outstanding, but better was the Iskender, succulent lamb on pitta with tomatoes and herbs. It was, in fact, the kind of dish you could lick the plate clean.
And all around us was lively and civilized, like we had stumbled across a secret with a following. After we had eaten, we chatted to the friendly owners about the intricacies of Turkish food Istanbul, and our favourite district in Beyoglu, Cukucurma. We sipped bitter coffee to finish.
Then Meadows closed for a while, reopening a week or two back with a new bar and slicker interior. We returned last weekend and found it a little less charming, but the food was still tasty, especially the courgette fritters and adana sarma (parcels of lamb mince wrapped in tortilla served with yoghurt). We enjoyed outstanding baklava too, to finish. But atmosphere-wise, it seemed to have lost something.
Our advice? Turn the lights back down and the candles up. And with regards to the exterior, perhaps that Comic Sans font needs to go; or even better, opt for a Turkish name that truly reflects the menu. But keep that great £8.50 deal. The place is an understated gem for those in the know.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms