Yeni in Soho: “A novel and delectable Anatolian world”
With gleaming tiled tables and the aroma from an active wood-fired oven, Yeni offers a warm welcome to those crossing through vibrant Carnaby Street.
The restaurant brings to London the modern Turkish cuisine of chef Civan Er who, after opening in Istanbul in 2013 – Yeni Lokanta featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Discovery Series – dreamed of presenting his interpretations of local dishes to the UK. Opportunity knocked in 2019, and Yeni was born. The name hints already at the style and twists involved: Er takes cooking techniques perfected in the Istanbul sister restaurant to this Soho spot, making use of British ingredients for a refreshed a new (yeni, in Turkish) cuisine.
The dining concept is based on sharing plates and the wine lists comprises an interesting number of bottles from Turkey for both reds and whites. Working around seasonality, the menu changes almost daily, with quite a few staples excluded according to the availability of certain produce. Inebriated by the wood oven scent (not too harsh, not too smoky) that weaves through the room, we inaugurate the table with a basket of Tava Bread and a shot of Yeni Rakı Âlâ. For a less hefty start, the Adana cocktail is a voluptuous mouthful, mixing isot chilli and passionfruit.
With a slightly crunchy batter, the Prawn and Vine Leaves Tempura are succulent rolls, nicely complemented by the tarama sauce. A comforting arrival (for both the eyes and the mouth) are the Manti. These traditional, boiled Turkish dumplings have a filling of dried aubergine (or a beef version is also available) and swim in velvety double fermented yoghurt. With a tickle of spice to avoid an overly mellow effect in the mouth, the result is one of the most flavoursome dishes of the meal.
For the second round of sharing dishes, we choose a couple of courses from the open-fire section. The Diver-caught Cornish Scallops are finished in burnt butter and served atop a creamy carrot dip. The juicy molluscs, enhanced by their pairing with the vegetables, could have been less greasy. The cut of the day, the Organic Welsh Lamb, is a rack on a bed of chickpeas and grapefruit. The meat is incredibly tender and succulent, passed through the transformative power of fire, and the contrasting acid notes from the citrus go along with it deliciously.
When it comes to the dessert, we have to bear in mind that Turkish sweets are famous for their tendency to be a bit treacly. The Sütlaç–Tonka-flavoured Rice Pudding has a pretty saccharine slant, met with a more neutral piece of rhubarb. On the top, there is handmade saffron candy floss that, in addition to providing a soft effect, balances the runnier aspect of the dish with a composed texture. The Panna Cotta has an intrinsic salted caramel tang, with a liquid pumpkin sauce that, while it brings a pop of colour, do not particularly impress in terms of taste.
With visually appealing culinary creations in a laid-back and vibrant setting, along with a bracing approach to tradition, chef Civan Er presents a novel and delectable Anatolian world to London.
Photos: Virginie Viche
To book a table at Yeni, 55 Beak Street London W1F 9SH, call 020 3475 1903 or visit their website here.