ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Monday, July 27, 2020

Eating out for the first time since lockdown!

Yesterday I had my first proper meal out since #LOCKDOWN® , the only thing that had previously come close being a Wetherbreakfast the previous weekend.

I know you're all desperate to learn where I went, what I ate and what it was like. So here goes:


Welcome back to SoCro


The venue was the Sneezy-sounding Atesh in South Croydon's 'restaurant quarter', a Turkish place which I'd visited only once previously and which, in all honesty, I hadn't been that impressed with, but which I felt deserved a second visit.

It seemed like a good post-lockdown choice as it's a physically vast restaurant and therefore social distancing was unlikely to be an issue. As I suspected, it was pretty much business as usual inside with a full menu on offer - the only clues to the current state of the world were the dispensers of hand sanitiser and the face masks worn by servers. I can live with that.

Starters orders
The menu is classic Turkish mezes to start followed by grilled, kebaby main courses; a tried and tested format and one that's pretty hard to fuck up, though to be fair it's also hard to pretty hard to make it truly standout.

You can pick any number of hot and/or cold mezes from the menu, getting a better deal the more you order. Three for £13.50, Five for £21.50, Ten for £39.50 - there's literally a set price for every number between one and 10.

The Babaganoush, which is usually one of my favourites, was perhaps a little disappointing, lacking real depth and smokiness, but the other aubergine dip, Soslu Patlican was excellent. I'd hesitate to call it a dip really, more like cold confit aubergine in a spicy, tomatoey sauce with peppers and onion. But it's sort of dippy in nature and packed with flavour.

The yoghurty spinach dip was also perfectly fine, though perhaps needed a little more garlic or chilli or something as it pales into comparison with the Soslu Patlican, and the sesame flatbread that goes with the dips is also pretty much OK for dipping with, but not especially exciting.

Nicely crunchy calamari with a bland tartare sauce, and the least salty Haloumi I've ever had rounded off our starters. Again, perfectly edible but considering it was my first meal out for months, I'd struggle to find a whole tonne of words to write about it.

So, onto the main course, where we put away our little mezes and tuck into a big fuck-off mixed grill. Well, a big plate of rice anyway.

A meaty attempt to fool you in to underestimating the amount of rice
The highlight of the Platter for two (£35) is clearly the pair of lamb cutlets which were pleasingly spiced, with nicely rendered fat on the outside. The chicken thighs were also juicy and succulent, though I'd have liked a little more heat. A slightly wetter sauce would also have made sense, given the amount of rice on the platter.

The kofte kebab seemed to be finished with a large amount of butter which, while not altogether unpleasant, was a little odd. I was minded to wonder if it had dried out horribly on the grill and some sort of eccentric Turkish salvage operation had taken place.

The platter is supposed to include Lamb Shish but this was missing (unexplained) and possibly replaced with additional chicken wings, which are almost always my least favourite part of a grill such as this.

Fish and chips, sort of
My other criticisms are that I'd like to have had a bit of shawarma or something similar on there too, and a bit of bread to go with it rather than the stupid amount of two different kinds of rice that I'm not sure anybody could eat.

The thing is, lots of rice is fine if you're eating something that's got a lot of sauce to mop up. If you're embarking on big chunks of fairly dry meat, it's not really necessary.
 
In addition to all that rice lurking under the meat, there's cooked tomato and green not-very-hot chillis, a tomato salad and little pots of mild chilli and garlic sauce on the side. Just not a lot to write about.

The best thing on the menu for me wasn't anything on the platter at all, but rather the grilled salmon main course. A generous portion of fish, nicely but not overpoweringly seasoned; the flesh flaky but not overdone, and overall pretty delicious. At £15 including a side of your choice, I'd seriously consider choosing it as my main course if I were to visit again.

We finished with a little Baklava (fresh, not packaged, which is always a good sign) and a Turkish coffee, which was pleasantly not-too-sweet and only costs a quid!

They say that one of the COVID-19 symptoms is the loss of ones sense of taste and smell. Should I be worried that so much of the food on the table seemed a trifle bland, underseasoned and underwhelming?

Baklava to finish
Maybe it's not Atesh, it's me?!?

(Mind you, I did find the Efes beer unpleasantly malty. More so than usual. No sign of my tastebuds failing there then...)

Anyway, three courses for two with a beer and coffee will cost about £60-75, which is about par for the area.

On balance I probably enjoyed the food at Atesh slightly more than on my previous visit and I'd go back if I was in the area and had a hankering for meat. Or the salmon. Or vast amounts of rice. I'm just struggling to find interesting things to say about the place.


To put it into context, the food here is roughly on a par with Hackney's Tad, and not as good as Streatham's Troy, which has gone, perhaps aptly, the way of all flesh.

File under 'does what it says on the tin'.

Where to find it...

Atesh

235-241 High Street,
Croydon
CR0 1QR (map)
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1 comment:

Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.