The Counter in Notting Hill: “Aegean Sundays celebrate the culture of Turkey, Greece and the islands in between”
From surfer to seafarer of flavours, Kemal Demirasal introduces authentic South Turkish delicacies to West London at The Counter. The ocakbasi restaurant emerged at the end of the pandemic and has been drawing both the curious and gourmets to Notting Hill, offering Anatolian dishes cooked over open-fire. This traditional method is the very essence and heart of the restaurant
Born in Izmir, on Turkey’s West Coast, Kemal tried various directions in his professional journey. Initially getting his head into economics, he was soon lured by the call of the sea, becoming a successful windsurfer and winning national championships. But the pull of the culinary world proved stronger than any other path, and by 2007, he had decided to follow his passion as a chef. The restaurants he opened in Alacati quickly caught the media’s attention, positioning him at the forefront of a fine-dining resurgence of local cuisine. His move to London was a significant shift but did not diminish his dedication to hospitality. Today, The Counter is his debut UK-based food venture, allowing Londoners to wet their taste buds with enticing dishes from the Anatolian regions.
The brick walls paired with sleek wooden furniture make for a warm ambiance. The dining room boasts both standard and high tables with stools, and the counter itself stretches across the back, rightfully demanding attention as the star of the show here. Just by reading the menu, anything grilled sounds delicious, from the pepper borani to the meat skewers. Aside from the obvious presence of French and Italian bottles, the wine list is dominated by Turkish produce, including wines from Thrace, featuring local varietals as well as Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc, and selections from Armenia, Georgia and Greece. This array pairs splendidly with the recently launched Aegean Sundays menu. One day a week, the standard à la carte – which normally focuses on inland Turkish flavours – gives way to a menu celebrating the food culture of the Aegean Sea, encompassing dishes from Turkey, Greece and the islands in between. The result? A menu priced at £50 per person, showcasing a generous selection of dips – from the widely recognised to the less commonly known cold ones – coupled with a notable emphasis on fish. Everything is presented in a sharing-plates style, ideal for lingering Sunday lunches and weekend dinners.
Among the starters, standouts include the Mashed Eggplant Salad with its chilli dressing and the creamy Mashed Fava Beans with red onion and dill. The slightly charred sourdough slices are devoured too swiftly to scoop up both dishes, especially given the amount needed to truly appreciate the Bottarga and salty tarama. Complementing these are the refreshing Horiatiki Salad, crowned with a chunky wedge of feta cheese, and the Samphire Salad with almonds. At the heart of the restaurant lies the grill, and this essence shines through in the sizzling starters of Squid and Sauteed Prawns, which are drenched in a garlic butter, lemon and cognac sauce, adding a layer of delicate yet compelling flavour.
On our visit, the fish of the day is Mackerel, presented with an aromatic and colourful topping. While the palate might feel a tad oily, the quality of the produce melting in the mouth is outstanding. The sweet conclusion is a Baked Halva, a dense Middle Eastern tahini paste dish, paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Aegean Sundays at The Counter offer a more relaxed and lighter feast: comfortable meal for ending the week on a high note.
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at The Counter, 108 Golborne Road London W10 5PS, call +44 750 061 2914 or visit their website here.