Raki should always be imbibed with water. Ignore this rule like we did and you’ll suffer a numb tongue – this stuff is potent. Distilled from suma (a pomace wine), it’s a little like a Turkish version of grappa undiluted but when water is added it louches, releasing oil that turns the whole thing milky in colour. And hey presto! It’s totally drinkable.
The menu at Efendy isn’t cheap and it takes a few minutes absorption of the menu until we realise it’s a la carte, and not geared for sharing. There’s a meze plate though, which means you get a bit of everything and it’s a nice way to see what the chefs can do without committing to any one thing. Asparagus spears wrapped in air-dried beef, say, or crisp pucks of zucchini deep-fried and served with yoghurt. And though dips are too often the most mundane thing on any menu, here they’re one of the highlights. Roughly pureed white beans blanket a tender heart of artichoke and a smattering of ruby pomegranate pearls pop like caviar within a smoky, rough hewn eggplant dip.
It looks like they’ve spent a bit of dough on the space. Inside, there are touch-glow lamps on every table, plush carpets on the polished floors and a whole separate dining room upstairs. Maybe not so much on the wait staff though, as two out of three don’t know the menu tonight. One comes by with the main courses and just plonks them on the table and walks away. The other defers to the sommelier (who knows everything) any time we ask him a question.
Mains are fine but not outstanding – the manti (Turkish style dumplings resembling ravioli) have some sort of oily film coating and no amount of help from the chickpea broth or burnt chilli and mint sauce can help them. The lamb itself isn’t the seven hour shoulder as advertised on the menu, it’s a shank and nobody bothered to tell us (it was tasty all the same, though). The vego option is more thoroughly realised but still lacks imagination – a yufka, or type of flat bread, here a thin pastry, cups a mix of roasted eggplant, tiny truss tomatoes and fetta. It’s got a nice body to it but lacks character.
The pistachio and almond pudding looks like your dime a dozen panacotta but the base is a stunning mix of pistachio and almond crumbs with pomegranates be-jewelling the top. Baklava is a one out of three hit-or-miss but the one that hit did it hard. Gooey, flaky and firm, this thumb sized nub is pure good.
Where Efendy falls down is the menu. The problem with this restaurant isn’t in the cooking itself – the cooking is fine. It’s that they’re trying for fancy mod Oz/Turk, adding things like mascarpone and crème brulee into the mix. It’d be a cooler menu if it was less about fusion and more about tradition.