Turul Project in Turnpike Lane: “I now have a new understanding of what Hungarian food can be”
What do you think of when you hear the words “Hungarian food”? It’s likely that the images that spring to mind consist of hearty, heavy, meaty meals like goulash, stews, dumplings and potatoes, all laced with a healthy dose of paprika.
However, the dishes at Turul Project couldn’t really be further from what may be considered their stereotypical national spread. Instead, they serve up delicate, contemporary food with a nod to tradition.
Located directly next to Turnpike Lane station, this unsuspecting restaurant could be easily overlooked. It’s unclear from the inconspicuous exterior that a light and modern dining room lies within, complete with luxurious velvet chairs and a wine bar.
The drinks list offers up a range of traditional fruit brandy by the shot glass; sparkling, white and rosé wine; cordials; and a selection of vinegar-based concoctions. It’s the hottest day of the year so far and staggeringly humid, so we opt for a rosé – Dobosi Organic Kekfrankos Rose 2019, Balaton – delightfully dry and fresh, it’s the perfect drink to pair with a three-course meal on a sweltering evening. Hunks of bread are served with whipped salted butter to enjoy whilst perusing the choices.
The à la carte menu is stripped back, leaving an air of mystery behind each plate until it arrives, which is always exciting for those who love to be surprised and try new things. To start we have Goose Liver, Tokaji Aszu, Brioche, Granny Smith, Cabbage and Our Little Garden Vegetable Textures, Carrot Pureé, Edible Soil. The former is an unassuming quenelle of goose liver parfait – which is completely crammed full of rich flavour – surrounded by red cabbage gel and tiny cubes of cooked granny smith apple to cut through the splendid, concentrated taste. It was eagerly spread onto the crunchy brioche and devoured swiftly. The latter is a stunning dish, both in savour and aesthetic, hurling any assumptions about heavy Hungarian fare straight out the window. It’s elegant, light, pretty – and looks like a leafy little work of art. The subtle vegetable taste is highlighted and the lightly curried carrot pureé brings it altogether.
Mains, again, leave much to the imagination in terms of description. The Monkfish Paprikas, Pasta Curd Cheese, Sour Cream is an ideal summer meal. Somehow both light and meaty, the fish is served with what looks like a potato dauphinoise but is actually layered pasta and cheese. It’s very tasty, and is doused in a paprika sauce (it had to be on the menu somewhere). The best plate of the night, though, is the Hare, Bread Dumplings Vadas-Style, Carrots. It consists of beautifully caramelised carrots, a juicy, tender morsel of hare, a bready dumpling and a dense, crispy hare bonbon, all drenched in a mouth-watering, glistening gravy. The balance of textures is just phenomenal.
There are only two desserts, meaning diners can order one of each and share, which is highly recommended as they’re both completely different and equally scrumptious. The Walnut Dumpling, Vanilla, Walnut Ice Cream is cakey, bready goodness which hints at childhood nostalgia, whilst the Ludlab Torte, Brandied Cherries, Sour Cherry Sorbet is sophisticated and sharp – the sorbet is excellent and could be greedily consumed on its own.
Turul Project has taken inspiration from tradition but elevates everything beyond expectation. I now have a new understanding of what Hungarian food can be.
Photos: Virginie Viche
To book a table at The Turul Project, 1 Turnpike Parade London N15 3LA, call 020 8888 9886 or visit their website here.