Kibele –  175 Great Portland St, London, W1W 5PJ

Turkish Delights at Kibele.

I discovered Kibele by complete accident, briskly strolling down Great Portland Street with a rumbling stomach and three friends, debating between two other restaurants we were heading in the general direction of. Too hungry to cast the deciding vote, I caught a glimpse of the tinted glass exterior, crossed the road and walked through the door. I was pleasantly surprised.

Kibele is a good looking restaurant. It balances an industrial aesthetic with Turkish chic – low hanging copper light bulbs, some bare, some clad in lace lanterns, cast a warm glow over the tables. An open kitchen at the back of the room lets out a humdrum of activity, yet remains quiet enough to enjoy a peaceful meal with good conversation. Excitement without distraction, it’s a fine balance.

We were welcomed immediately and seated in a booth of red leather that somehow avoided feeling like an American diner, and left to peruse the menu. I was surprised as to how eclectic the options were, and for those of you that are non-meat eaters, Kibele serves up a plethora of vegetarian choices. Prices are reasonable for the area, with appetisers in the area of £5.00-£10.00 and mains priced between £14.00-£22.00. There are options for a fixed lunch menu (£14.00) and a two person “feast” for £35 per head, yet we choose to order individually.

Cocktails are £9.50 and the wine list caters to most budgets.

To start, we settle on sharing Borek: pastries stuffed with feta and spinach; Humus, Tabbouleh, Patlican Ezme: pureed smoked aubergine with yoghurt; and Deniz Taragi: scallops pan fried in basil oil. For mains, I order a Kofta, and the others decide upon Mousakka, and Iskender: grilled lamb on toasted bread with a buttery sauce.

One of my friends has an extremely serious nut allergy which they were more than accommodating toward, and after a short wait our table was adorned with warm slices of sesame crusted bread, olives, and our dishes, all of which were greatly sized.

The Tabbouleh was brilliantly green, with chopped parsley, mint and spring onion providing an aromatic burst delicately accompanied by the acidic tartness of pomegranate molasses lightly drizzled on top. It goes great with the Borek, which appear as long spring-roll type pastries and really steal the show. They’re incredibly crisp on the outside and filled with buttery, creamy feta and spinach – they are not elegant, but they’re comforting and beautiful in their simplicity.

Unfortunately, the Humus was nothing to rave about, which was a slight disappointment, but it remained satisfying dolloped in a heap upon the bread or mixed with a bit of Patlican Ezme. The latter had the appearance of wallpaper paste, but tasted wonderful – deep and smoky aubergine carried by cool yoghurt with a hint of garlic.

Although greatly anticipated and visually vibrant, with an unexpected deep yellow broth popping with red pepper and tomato, my Deniz Teregi were an ever so slight let down and not really as advertised; there was no hint of basil, nor would it have worked with the rest of the dish. Along with the latter, it lacked a pinch of salt and wouldn’t have suffered from a just tinge of peppery heat, yet I would be hard pushed to say I didn’t like it at all; the scallops were perfectly cooked, fresh and meaty, even if what surrounded them offered little to the palate.

In sharp contrast, I could barely find fault with our mains. My Kofta scored high on quality and quantity, served as five circular patties accompanied by a fragrant yoghurt, fluffy couscous with sun-dried tomato and a zesty onion salad. The meat was tender and spiced to perfection with garlic and cumin and the acidity of the onion salad cut through with a zing.

I am told that the Moussakka was outlandishly tasty, somewhat evidenced by the speed it was polished off by my friend, and the mouthful of Iskender I managed to steal was impressive. The lamb was flavourful and complex, yet the bread bottom to the dish swiftly went soggy, adding a doughy, weighty texture that, although not unpleasant, did not compliment the tomato and pepper sauce as much as a crispier toasted slice would have.

We had no room for dessert, opting to drink up and pay our bill: £37.50 per head for two courses, including drinks and gratuity. I left with a belly full of good food, looking forward to the next time I can experience some Turkish delight, although I’ll give the scallops a miss.

Food: 8/10

Staff: 10/10

Setting: 9/10

Price: ££

Highlight: Borek (Starter), Kofta (Main)

Overall: 8.5/10

Restaurant: Kibele