Latest opening: The Counter

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

©Sam Harris
©Sam Harris

Related tags The Counter Kemal Demirasal West london Turkish cuisine Chefs London

High-profile Turkish chef Kemal Demirasal’s UK debut has largely flown under the radar but the Ladbroke Grove restaurant now looks set to shake up London’s Turkish food scene.

What:​ A Turkish restaurant on Ladbroke Grove’s Golborne Road. The Counter is billed as a contemporary take on an ocakbasi restaurant offering authentic Anatolian dishes with the occasional twist, not least the surprisingly successful addition of white chocolate to baba ghanoush. Though gastronomically ambitious, the menu is affordable with starters and small plates averaging out at a little over £10 and generous ‘main event’ dishes typically priced between £20 and £25.    

Who:​ Self-taught Turkish chef Kemal Demirasal is the man behind the stoves. A former pro windsurfer, Demirasal is a big deal in his home country. Closed in 2021 in anticipation of his London launch, his Istanbul restaurant Alancha was one of Turkey’s most ambitious restaurants serving an avante garde, research-driven menu that celebrated the origins of Anatolian cuisine. He has opened a number of restaurants in Turkey over the years (his first in 2007) but currently operates a single restaurant called YEK in his hometown of Alaçatı on the country’s west coast. The venture is pitched at roughly the same level as The Counter, but is focused on fish rather than meat. Oddly, nobody was really aware of Demirasal’s involvement with the project when the restaurant launched in late summer last year with The Counter now in the midst of a relaunch of sorts.

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The vibe:​ The interiors at The Counter have been put together by Gurcan Dere Design Studio, with the aim of channeling the intimacy of a Turkish home. With its rough brick walls, rustic plasterwork, exposed steel beams and misshapen wooden tables the restaurant isn’t a big budget affair, which chimes nicely with Golborne Road’s somewhat bohemian feel. As one would expect, the majority of the restaurant’s artworks have been sourced from Turkey, including three wooden wall panels by sculptor Onur Çanka, which emulate the landscape of Southeastern Anatolia. The tableware has been produced by YEK Design, a London-based ceramics brand founded by Demirasal. 

The food:​ The majority of the dishes at The Counter will be familiar to anyone who has explored the more authentic side of the capital’s vibrant Turkish food scene. But Demirasal is clear that the approach is distinct from the ocakbasi restaurants of Green Lanes which - he believes - serve Anglo Turkish food, or at the very least Turkish food that has taken on some UK influences. The Counter is more specific in its source material, serving food from the south east of the country. It’s equally specific about its sourcing, importing many of its ingredients directly from artisan producers in Turkey. Starters and small plates include a salad made with lamb tongue and head cheese; lamb liver skewers served in delicate lavash bread; a salad of vine leaves; and kibbeh that are poached like dumplings rather than being deep-fried. Larger dishes include chicken skewers; beef skewers; mince kebab with paprika, tabla salad, onion salad, molasses, isot and lavash; and Turkish kofta that’s served on cheap white bread to absorb the juices alongside a white bean salad dressed with tahini, cumin, onion, tomato, parsley, sumac and egg yolk. On the desserts menu you'll find semolina cake with clotted cream, poppy seed and orange zest; and a salty, sage-infused burnt rice pudding with hazelnut. 

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To drink:​ The wine list is large for what is, on the face of it, a relatively casual venue with around 60 references in total. About a third of the wines are from Turkey and there are a fair few from neighbouring Greece. The cocktail menu has been created by high-profile bartender Cihan Anadologlu, whose Munich bar Circle has made the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Options include the Satir Kiyma cocktail inspired by the kebab of the same name, made using lamb fat-washed rye whisky, red pepper, chilli flakes, orange bitters and molasses. The list also features the Şalgam, a mezcal cocktail made with lime, pandan and salgam juice, a fermented black carrot and turnip juice traditionally served alongside kebabs.

And another thing:​ Not content with being an accomplished chef, ceramicist and wind-surfer (he is a six-times Turkish national champion) Demirasal is also a big name in Turkish food media having founded restaurant industry talks platform PeakTalks and presented Çirak, a 13-episode gastronomy documentary on Turkish national TV channel TRT.

108 Golborne Road, London, W10 5PS
www.thecounterlondon.com

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