Zahter announces the passing of 'visionary' chef founder Esra Muslu

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Zahter announces the passing of chef founder Esra Muslu

Related tags Esra Muslu Chef London Restaurant Turkish cuisine

London-based Istanbulite restaurant Zahter has announced the passing of its founder and head chef Esra Muslu.

In a statement posted on social media​, the restaurant confirmed the chef's death, describing her as a 'vibrant spirit' with 'unwavering positivity'. 

The statement reads: “Today, we mourn the passing of Esra, the visionary founder and head chef of Zahter restaurant.

“Her vibrant spirit and unwavering positivity touched us all.

“With heavy hearts, we share the news of her peaceful departure this morning.

“Her legacy will forever live on in our hearts. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.”

No information on the cause of death has been provided and it is unclear at this time whether Zahter will remain open in the wake of Muslu’s passing.

Restaurant ​has reached out to representatives of Zahter for further comment.

Muslu launched Zahter on Foubert's Place in Soho back in late 2021.

It was her first solo venture in the UK, having previously worked as head chef at Ottolenghi Spitalfields.

Muslu grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, and first came to London when she was 18 to study, but subsequently left to do a degree in culinary arts at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

After that she returned to Istanbul where she opened her first restaurant in 2007, a fine-dining concept called Moreish located in the city’s Beyoğlu district.

The restaurant proved popular, and eventually led to Muslu to form a partnership with other chefs to launch a collection of six more restaurants, all primarily concentrated in Beyoğlu.

They include Auf, Unter, Backyard and Kauf, the latter two of which continue to operate today.

Muslu eventually stepped away from the group and partnered with Nick Jones to work as head chef at Soho House Istanbul, a role which eventually brought her to London at Shoreditch House.

Speaking to Restaurant ​around the time of Zahter’s launch​, Muslu described the restaurant as an opportunity to show London’s diners what the breadth of Turkish cuisine looks like.

“I love my country and our cultural cooking, and I don’t think you can find it enough in this city,” she said.

“Often Turkish restaurants here are just synonymous with kebabs. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a huge part of our culture. But there is so much more variety to explore.”

Following its launch, Zahter received a rave review from The Observer ​restaurant critic Jay Rayner​, who declared it as serving ‘the best baklava’ he’d ever eaten.

The restaurant is also listed in the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland​, which describes it as ‘boldly decorated’ with ‘interesting dishes cooked on the chargrill or in the wood-burning oven’.

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