- Location: Efes, 80-82 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7QT (nearest tube stations are Great Portland Street or Oxford Circus)
- Date of Visit: Tuesday 28th January
- Time of Table: 6.15pm
- Deal Bought From: Groupon
- Deal Price: £25 for Two
- Dinner Companion: Twin sister, Jess
Getting More for your Money?
This dinner deal includes:
- Two Starters
- Two Main Courses
- Two Glasses of Wine
- For Two People
What we ate…
- Starter: Humus
- Main: Doner, served with side salad and rice
- Dessert: Baklava (not included)
- Starter: Tabule
- Main: Mixed Grill, served with side salad and rice
- Dessert: Chocolate and Pistachio Ice Cream Dessert (not included)
What we drank…
- Two glasses of house white wine each
What did we think?
Less than five minutes away from my Great Portland Street based office, with its emerald green awning and bright lights spilling out of the front windows, Efes excluded a comforting warmth when we arrived for our weekday dinner treat. Stepping inside, the left hand side of the lobby area was dominated by a bar area, with tables scattered roomily on the right. Walking further down the restaurant, even more seating filled the back section, making the restaurant form a ‘T’ shape. There was also a lower section, filled with more square tables and chairs.
Since we were dining on a quiet Tuesday night, we had our pick of the tables, so we opted to sit tucked away in the corner on a table for four, one of us seated on the dark brown sofa, the other on a dining chair the other side of the table. It felt secluded and private, although I’m not sure if it would have felt this way had the venue been packed to capacity. Efes has a certain style of shabby chic – the white painted walls may have been peeling and cracked, the upholstery a drab brown velvet, but this untidiness was juxtaposed with the elegant glamour of decadent Turkish décor.
Descending from the ceiling with a bejewelled globe of light were fantastical stained glass chandeliers, throwing off shades of blue and red amidst the atmospheric lighting, the gleaming polished silver of the fitting only accentuating the vibrancy of the colours. Sat atop a high shelf running around the circumference of the room were a collection of gorgeously decorated plates, their rims curving to touch the ceiling. Splashed with bold blotches of loud and proud colour, these luxurious ceramic rainbows seemed to boost the plainness that inhabited the rest of the restaurant. You couldn’t help but be dazzled by these stunning singularities, so much so that the crack in the walls suddenly became passable. Yet another contrast to the multi-coloured displays was the array of black and white photographs that adorned the wall behind our table, displaying a mix of sporting and movie starlets. So many clashing styles yet it all seemed to fold together impeccably to create a rather cosy and comfortable scene that wasn’t overdone or upmarket.
Opened by chef Ibrahim Akbas in 1974, this authentic Turkish diner has slowly built itself a reputation for generous portions and good value for money, so I was eager to see if this was true or not, despite our voucher. After settling at our table, we were presented with two ‘Groupon set menus’ which I was actually really disappointed about. Nowhere on our voucher, did it stipulate that we would be selecting from a set menu, it just said that we could have our pick of meals under certain price points. After checking their menu online earlier in the day, I saw that our restricted menu had actually cut off a lot of these choices, including the two options that I had had my eye on. It would have been nice if this had been clarified on the voucher somewhere, as we assumed that we could have our pick from the full menu. Despite this setback, we were quickly presented with a trio of white square dishes – one containing fat and juicy olives, the second containing a yoghurty mint dip and the third holding a spicy red relish. Paired with a silver platter holding traditional Turkish flat bread, we promptly dove in while we perused our now slimmed down choices.
Although not a consistent olive eater, I really loved the subtle flavours of these oil kissed green and black babies. Although the chunky red sauce was a tad too hot and spicy for my liking, the cooling mint option was delicious and the ideal antidote. For our glass of wine, we could pick from the house red or white, so we went for the white. It packed a punch but was still nice and smooth to drink so I experienced none of the dry harshness that I hate in white wine. For starters, I decided to go for the Turkish classic with humus served with more of the warm pitta flat bread. Jess opted for the light tabule salad. Our starters literally came out as soon as we had ordered them, making is feel that they prepared the cold starters maybe. The humus was wonderfully creamy and not overly grainy which was nice. I do enjoy a bit of a dunk so it was a pleasant way to whet the appetite.
Although I ummed and ahhed over what to pick for my main course, I eventually settled on the doner – although this was rather different from the version you’ll find in your local chippie. A mountain of meaty strips were piled up on top of a bed of snowy white boiled rice. A side salad containing the usual suspects of lettuce, tomato, red cabbage and cucumber lay scattered in a column along the left hand side of my rectangular white plate. Looking at my plate, I couldn’t really understand where the ‘generous portion’ compliment had derived from, as although it was an ok size, I wouldn’t say it was generous or hearty, although that may just be the nature of Turkish food. Although the presentation and style of the dish were far removed from the fish and chip menu, I can’t honestly say the flavour was. The texture of the meat revealed its higher grade of meat, but I confess I was disappointed in my choice, as I was expecting Efes to jazz up the doner and give it a lick of Turkish opulence. I complained quietly that I wished there was more bread to be eaten with the main course, and promptly another platter of flatbread was mysteriously delivered to our table, so that was a nice plus point. Jess ordered the mixed grill which I soon became extremely jealous of and wish I had ordered instead. Her chunks of meat were tender and flavourful and made my doner meat look like the poor second cousin twice removed. Although my main course was tasty, I would have liked more of it and I think it needed some more style and imagination to add to the authenticity and take away from the normalness.
Dessert wasn’t included in our voucher, but we decided to go for it anyway, choosing two different options so we could share and try a couple of things. We wanted something original, so we went for the flaky pastry Baklava, which was absolutely amazing. With a wonderfully syrupy taste and texture, the filo pastry clumped delightfully to the nutty paste at the bottom of the bite-sized chunks. The dry, flaky filo created a slight crunch at the top, yet the oozy bottom added a great contrast and sweetness to the pastry. Moving on from these divine mouthfuls, we had also ordered a bit of a sundae, that had pistachio and custard flavoured ice creams, laced with chocolate sauce. As a complete custard addict, I really enjoyed trying it as an ice cream, where the flavour actually came across really well. The creamy coloured ice cream also worked really well with the sage green pistachio scoops, and let’s face it, chocolate makes anything taste better. With a scattering of nuts on top, this was also a top notch dessert.
Pushing the boat out further, we swapped our usual concluding cappuccino for a traditional Turkish coffee – the first time we had ever tried it. Stunning presented in opulently ornate polished silver tea cups and saucers, it even had a domed lid to keep the coffee extra toasty within. Lifting the lid revealed a small white ceramic cup inside the silver casing that held a small shot of incredibly dark coffee. The size and blackness made it look very much like an espresso , although flavour wise, it didn’t have the usual warm softness of a classic coffee. It packed more of a punch with a denser texture that formed a gritty sludge at the bottom of the cup when you finished. It had a strong and vaguely bitter taste but it was still palatable to drink, although I think I would prefer a normal coffee next time.
The best bit by far however was the jelly like Turkish delight. The green pistachio flavoured cubes dusted with fine powdered sugar were sensational, the thick sweets holding real chunks of nuts which provided a really great texture contrast between the squidgy jelly and crunchy nuts. A far cry from manufactured Turkish delights, these beauties tasted really natural and homemade. I don’t usual like Turkish delights, but I couldn’t get enough of these. They were also really nicely presented on a silver dish to match our coffee cups, complete with dinky tongs. We received some more with the bill which also had me licking my lips!
Making a second reservation? If I’m honest – no. After our main course, I really thought we had been forgotten about as we were left alone for so long. Normally if a voucher only includes starters and main course, the waiting staff are very keen to show you a dessert menu to try and boost their earnings, but we really got the sense at Efes that they didn’t expect us to want any more, which was rather annoying as in fact, we did. For us, daily deal vouchers makes pricey and interesting venues accessible, so we always like to make the most of the opportunity when we go, so this often means spending outside of the voucher restraints. Another slight peeve was how quickly all the food came out – not usually a concern when eating out I know, as waiting too long for your food can be a complete nightmare. In this case however, we had managed to finish dips, starters and main course in just 45 minutes, meaning that if we had just stuck to what our voucher provided, it wouldn’t have been much of a night out. The staff were pleasant and polite, so there was nothing wrong with the actual service, I just feel that the timing were mismatched and this affected the flow of our evening.
On top of our voucher, we ordered an additional glass of wine each, two desserts and two Turkish coffees as well as the typical service charge which ended up being £38 on top of the original £25 for the voucher. On the whole this was steeper than I would have expected for what we were provided with, so again I’m not sure if the ‘good value’ claim lives up to its reputation either. Granted, we did go a tad overboard with the extra desserts and coffees, but it was on the whole more expensive than I would have anticipated.
I enjoyed my evening at Efes, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something lacking and lacklustre that held it back slightly. Everything was just nice, but if I’m going out for dinner in London and paying London prices to enjoy a night out, I want my meal to be more than just nice. The bonus was definitely the Turkish delights and the dips and olives at the beginning and end of the meal, but there is no way I would have paid full price for what we had and I’m not sure it would be worth a return visit.
The Dinner Dates Opinion:
“This is a good location being in central London and was very easy to find which is good for someone as directionally challenged as me! The restaurant was Turkish themed with the decor matching this. I enjoyed my food here, there were lots of things on the menu I could have tried but I thoroughly enjoyed what I had. I especially like the range of meats that came with my mixed grill and I think this was probably the best option to go for on the set menu. The dessert was also really lovely, with a good mix of traditional desserts and ice cream desserts. Although I really enjoyed the food, I’m not sure I would have liked to pay full price for the food we had. The pistachio Turkish delights with the bill were definitely a bonus though!”