Restaurant Of The Week: Yeni

Words by
Andy Morris

16th February 2022

From Istanbul to Soho, a high-end take on Turkish cuisine impresses with a warm welcome and volcanic spicing.

I blame the success of Killing Eve for the huge neon ‘Soho’ sign that now hangs above Beak Street. It would appear that, even in the era of Google maps and universal GPS, we require a title screen identifying our location at all times: a vast sign, like a non-denominational Christmas light, to help tourists find their way around. Yes, even if the area in question has represented the beating heart of London’s culture since the late 1950s.

But if you see the sign, keep heading into Soho and you'll find Yeni, which lies on the former site of much-missed wine bar Vinoteca. It is the sister restaurant of Yeni Lokanta in Istanbul, one of the 
50 Best Restaurants In the World. The appeal isn’t hard to define for its London outpost: open fire cooking, Michelin-starred expertise, bare brick, warm welcome, independent wine list, Welsh lamb, sensational sharing plates of Turkish food.

Through the curtain, greeted by manager Daniel Baicu, the evening moves at a clip, with the restaurant pleasingly full of people relishing the chance for an unpretentious evening out, bursting with flavour and surprise. Start with tremendous Tava bread and carrot and walnut tarator (grin-inducing orange paste), mopped up with simple cocktails: max three ingredients, no flaring, all killer. Think “tonic and gin”, good Negronis and a delicious 'Adana' (Mezcal, chilli, passionfruit). 

Starters are simply fantastic: the higgledly-piggedly pile of bulgar fritters with pomegranate seeds, herbs and date molasses were robust Ottolenghi-esque flavour bombs, prawn and vine leaves tempura were the pub snack of the Gods while large Manti dumplings had a touch of the pipette-Jackson-Pollock in the presentation, as well as the delicious double-fermented yoghurt as sauce. Sivir biber (the best biber that isn’t Justin) also comes highly recommended.

Mains warmed to the same theme: succulent lamb with kumquat and kisir salad, sizeable Cornish scallops topped with almonds and burnt butter, sardines with feta and fava and lugubrious slices of pickled pears. I look forward to trying the whole lemon sole with sea beet on my next visit. The sole vegetarian main combines aubergine, stilton, figs, port and almond - all were polished off without pause. Deserts are defined by a salt caramel panna cotta, complete with a moat of Tango-coloured pumpkin sauce. Pair with a few glasses of Eastern Turkish Selection öküzgözü Boğazkere for a truly cracking evening. Best of all, even after you’ve had a few drinks you’ll not lose your bearings. Just look for the preposterously big ‘Soho’ sign...