The Knackered Chef chats with Saray restaurant

Where oh where do I start, you may have noticed that I’ve not written anything for a couple of months, that’ll be mainly due to a short stay in Kings College just up the road. It’s a story I’ll save for later but it really is a cracker, needless to say life changing events promote life changing decisions.

I had promised the new restaurant Saray just opposite the park that I would come and have a chat with them only I ended up chatting to a doctor over the finer points of how they were going to repair my face, I digress.

I’d been for now what has become a regular 3-4 days a week trip to Brockwell Lido for an insane two and a half hours of pushing my body past all the limits someone at my age shouldn’t do without fear of near death. During my recovery period I was walking past the restaurant almost daily feeling increasingly guilty at the fact I’d not as promised popped in, so Tuesday evening I took an opportunity to say hello, I was met by the owner Erkan, what a great pity people don’t smile like he does it was infectious within a minute or so I had a big grin on my face.

I took a while to have a look around whilst he was cleaning himself down from preparing his fresh food for that evenings service, I have to say what a great job he has done. He’s gone for a real Mediterranean decorative look, it's colourful and vibrant there's nothing sterile about it. It sings from the rooftops “hello we're here”. OK it’s not to everyone's taste but you could be forgiven to think that you were in an authentic Turkish venue in the heart of Istanbul and with the view of our very own Brockwell park what more could you ask for. He tells me it was one of the main reasons he decided to take the venue, another was that he is a local just on the fringes of Herne Hill in the Tulse Hill area. Ten years in the business, a wife and an eleven year old son he decided to take the plunge and own his own venue.

Five months of blood sweat and tears and behold Saray opened it’s doors to the public. I like Ekran he understands that it's going to take some time and he has made allowances for that. He’s inquisitive asking about other venues, being impartial I advise him to take a walk around Herne Hill and introduce himself to the local traders and find out for himself.

All the food in the Saray is cooked on a Mangal, I did say that but it’s not the one your thinking of and if your old enough to remember them (which I am) you’ll know that I’m not talking about a laundry mangle. It’s a traditional method of Turkish cooking over hot coals and a hat like hot plate, there is a window in the restaurant so you can see how your food is cooked and you are welcome to watch as you are separated by a glass divider.

Mangal roughly translated to Barbecue in English, the Menu is varied and ample with a good choice for every taste. Nothing will break the bank and there is a 12oz sirloin which believe me is extremely huge and something I’ll be looking forward sinking me teeth into and I was astonished at the price, for London it’s not expensive, some venues charge that for 6oz sirloin. A lunch menu that starts at an astonishing and frankly brilliant £4.95 with an immensely tempting £8.95 for two courses I’m without doubt getting myself there, you can pop out for lunch and it’s cheaper than going to one of the leading supermarkets in Herne Hill. Children are well catered for and with Ekran and his family who often help out in this well run family business and sometimes can be seen serving on Sundays your children are in safe hands, unlike many they welcome families.

I took a little peak at the wine list and there is a well selected choice from various parts of the world all of which partner really well with the food on offer. A glass of house would set you back a mere £4 and that's not bad anywhere in the country let alone London, an entry level bottle will cost £16 which again is not to bad you get the feel he’s doing the right thing, time will tell and I hope that he does well. There is a select cocktail list again really well priced at only £6 when they can range from £7 and get to a lofty £11 (that's three pints to old school drinkers of real ale) and talking of real ale he is planning and talking to local craft brewers to tempt the ale drinker and with a late license until 2am there is room for that party you have been looking to book. You’re welcome to come and sit and drink and eat either way you're made to feel like one of the family, although they don’t take bookings at the moment I’d strongly advise that you do.

In my opinion this is one to watch I can see the venue becoming a stalwart of Herne Hill a place where you can relax and enjoy, whether it be a traditional Turkish Tea or a bottle of locally brewed craft ale, maybe a simple lunch or a family get together support this one and encourage your friends to give them a try, Herne Hill offers so much and Saray is one of the newest businesses. I sincerely wish them the very best. And hope they can be a prosperous and thriving business.
0208 671 3772
Ask for Ekran