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Sofra Mayfair for
One always expects something a bit special in Mayfair.
Some of the best and most iconic of restaurants can be found in that
neighbourhood. There are smart shops selling tailored apparel, and
hand-made chocolates are showcased, well, in showcases in smart
boutiques of a style previously reserved for jewellers. Yes, this area
does have ‘swank’ writ large.
Turkish cuisine in London doesn’t have a reputation for presenting
itself as ‘high-end’. The majority of Turkish restaurants are of the
ubiquitous fast-food variety, selling kebabs. Nothing wrong with that
as long as the food is well cooked and well presented. Let’s not be
food snobs – moist, seasoned meat with some salad and a selection of
piquant sauces is often just what’s needed to fill that dietary void
between 1am and breakfast.
Sofra, however, shows another side of Turkish cooking and it’s a
welcome addition to the restaurant scene in Mayfair. It occupies a
corner plot a block or so back from Piccadilly and it’s a charming
building. The wood-framed windows give a Victorian gothic air and a
thoroughly inviting warm light shone from those very windows on a cold
Monday night in December.
We gladly accepted that illuminated invitation and found a table in the
corner offering a view of the fast-filling restaurant. It isn’t, in
fact, as large as it first appears. Artfully-placed mirrors trick the
diner into believing that there are plenty more tables behind those
pillars. The tables are laid with crisp white linen, with napkins tied
with red ribbon. Red tea lights added to the rather festive but subtle
Our fellow guests were a cross-section of international humanity: Irish
businessmen, American bankers, French students, three generations of a
Turkish family, and some British tourists. Some of these folks seemed
to be regulars. Always a good sign, and especially so when Mayfair
visitors are spoilt for choice by so many other dining possibilities
Our waitress was quick to present us with a basket of fresh bread,
olives and hummus. That gave us time to scrutinise
surprisingly extensive menu. Yes, there is indeed a good selection
of Turkish favourites but this menu also includes those dishes from
around the globe that have become familiar to all of us. Satay,
Malaysian Prawns and Tempura graced the starter section, with main
dishes including Black Cod with Miso. We wanted to try the regular
Turkish fare and there was plenty to choose from, but before we had a
chance to decide, we were served with a hot lentil soup taster. A nice
We settled on the lamb-topped hummus, which had been recommended by a
friend, and this was creamy and light rather than the coarser varieties
more often encountered in supermarkets. My guest selected the Spicy
Turkish Sausages, which were served in a small frying-pan. These are a
must-try; do use some of the aforementioned bread to mop up the
flavourful oil. Sofra would be a good venue for a meal with friends:
consider ordering a selection from the starter menu – a meal of Turkish
Tapas with something for every taste.
I chose the House Speciality as my main course. This was meatballs
covering a layer of cubes of bread. The patties were dressed with both
a tomato sauce and yogurt. This might sound an unlikely preparation,
but it works. A good-quality loaf is essential – a base of Mother’s
Pride white sliced would lack any kind of impact. The meat was very
lightly seasoned, so a good dish for those anxious about salt intake.
My guest was intrigued by a dish called His Highness’s Favourite. Not
quite sure which particular Highness this dish is named for, but he was
evidently a man of refined taste. The aubergine was outstanding with
real smoky flavour and smooth texture. The lamb stew which covered the
purée was delicately seasoned.
Don’t even think of missing dessert. I would recommend the Ottoman
Kadayif. The pastry shreds are dry rather than syrup-soaked as with
Baklava. This was a cream-filled dream with a little jug of sugar syrup
to drizzle. A light dessert but a triumph of crunchy elegance. A cup of
medium sweet Turkish coffee was all that was needed to complete the
I enjoyed Sofra for dinner and I look forward to visiting another
branch for breakfast very soon.
18 Shepherd Street, London W1J 7JG
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7493 3320
Visit Sofra here