Turkish cuisine is regarded as one of the best ones in the world, and trust me, I’m not telling this because I’m Turkish – it genuinely is in so many ways!
The traces of the traditional Ottoman cuisine and the flavours of different cuisines such as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ones, renders Turkish cuisine very extensive and rich. There are literally so many delicious dishes that can appeal to anyone’s taste. Besides the famous kebabs, pastries and heavenly desserts, there are also light and healthy but absolutely delicious vegetable dishes with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) and amazing appetizers (mezeler) in this unique cuisine.
So when I’m in London, I sometimes literally crave Turkish food and I’m really happy that there are some good Turkish restaurants here. I haven’t been to all of them but among the ones that I’ve visited, Babaji is probably the best in terms of the food, the service, the design, the location – in summary everything :)
Babaji is located in Soho, close to Chinatown and it’s owned by Alan Yau, the name behind some of London’s best restaurants such as Hakkasan and Yauatcha.
The story behind the name “Babaji” is that when Alan Yau comes to Istanbul, he hears someone calling their father “babacım”, ( daddy ) and he really likes the way it sounds, so he interprets the word as “Babaji”. This choice of name is meaningful and appropriate also because it’s easily remembered and rhythmical, and the letter “a” is dominant, just like in Yau’s other restaurants’ names – Hakkasan, Wagamama, Busaba and Yautacha.
The restaurant is named as pide salonu, which can be translated to English as pizzeria, however don’t be fooled by the name – besides an amazing selection of pide’s (Turkish style pizza – boat-shaped flat bread with a variety of toppings), the menu is filled with some of the signature Turkish appetizers, meat and vegetable dishes, and desserts!
From the appetizers, I definitely recommend cacık (yogurt with garlic & cucumber) , kısır (bulgur wheat salad) , oven baked halloumi , karides güveç ( shrimps with tomato & kaşar cheese, cooked in traditional Turkish clay pot) and börek (filo pastry filled with cheese & spinach)
As for beverage I strongly suggest ayran (traditional Turkish salted yogurt drink) and of course Turkish coffee after your meal, which is served in a copper coffee pot and is probably my favourite beverage in the world!
Since I prefer traditional pide’s, I’ve tried their pide develi (pide topped with diced beef, tomato, Turkish green pepper & parsley) and kıymalı pide (pide with minced lamb, tomato & pepper) and both of them were very good, but you can surely choose other kinds of pide’s from the menu based on your taste, as there are so many options with great combinations of ingredients.
When it comes to other main courses from the stove & grill, the ones that you shouldn’t miss are mantı (traditional Turkish dumplings with beef, yogurt, Turkish chili flake & butter) , kuru fasulye (white bean stew with tomato & red chilli) , külbastı (grilled lamb with tomato sauce and yogurt) and dolma (vine leaf stuffed with minced beef & rice)
From the desserts, you should certainly try künefe (sweet cheese pastry soaked in syrup ) and baklava (with pistachio & vanilla ice cream)! Back in Turkey I prefer baklava without pistachio, but it’s a matter of choice and many people enjoy it this way as well.
Finally, I’ve recently found out that they also serve weekend brunch between 11:00 – 16:30, and if you’ve read my previous post you know this news made me more than happy!
I checked out the menu and they almost have everything that needs to be there in a traditional Turkish breakfast/brunch. For those who are curious what are the main dishes in a Turkish breakfast, the ones from the menu are söğüş (chopped cucumbers & vine tomatoes) , Gemlik black olives, feta cheese, pan-fried halloumi, jam, simit, menemen (Turkish style scrambled eggs with tomato & peppers) or sucuklu yumurta (Turkish sausage “sucuk” and fried eggs)
The design of Babaji is truly impressive and unique with special details, made by a world-wide known Turkish design studio named Autoban. The beautiful handcrafted ceramic tiles that cover the walls and ceilings, the Iznik tile designs on some of the tables, and the inlaid brass details used in the wood tabletops reflect the traditional Turkish culture in a wonderful way.
The restaurant is on three levels, on the ground floor you can see how the pide’s are made from where you’re sitting, as in the middle there’s an open space with a large stone oven where the chefs are baking the pides. On the first floor, there’s a more spacious dining area, and on the basement there’s a smaller one and the kitchen.
The service of the restaurant reveals the well-known Turkish hospitality once again, with almost all-Turkish staff welcoming you in a warm and friendly way, and providing a quick and attentive service throughout the meal.
The philosophy of Babaji is simple – presenting the traditional Turkish culture with a modern interpretation, and reflecting its warmth and sincerity without exaggeration, in a natural way – for example by playing the common Turkish songs in the background and using the traditional, thin glass cups that are used to serve tea in Turkey.
In my opinion Babaji represents the Turkish culture in a decent and impressive way, with all the hidden details and the apparent effort and thought that has been given to all parts of the restaurant.
Note: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so depending on the time of day you visit there’s a chance that you’ll have to wait for a while, but you can order from the restaurant through online delivery services as well!
So, to summarize, if you’re interested in Turkish cuisine and want to try the delicious Turkish dishes for reasonable prices in a unique atmosphere, then you should definitely pay a visit to Babaji!
Address: 53 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LB