Words: Abigail Blasi
Being in Mayfair, you expect a bit of moneyed glamour from Rüya.
But this incarnation of the Dubai restaurant is… very Dubai. The space – and there’s lots of it – is old-school glamour meets Anatolian design magazine, with a long bar, several open kitchens (one for bread), flatteringly low-lit spotlights, a UFO-type chandelier and acres of geometric tiling.
It’s the type of place you expect to see Ferraris double parked outside. Staff have the resting-model look. So far, so Mayfair, but this also offers something different: a creative take on Anatolian cuisine – the cooking from the Asian part of Turkey.
You may think why bother with creative Anatolian when you can eat delicious Turkish grilled meats and salads for a fraction of the price in Green Lanes or Dalston. But just because you can get good cheap fish and chips doesn’t mean that exquisitely grilled sea bass isn’t necessary. In the (almost) words of John Lennon, give Rüya a chance: this is a different, complex take on Turkish.
Start with the cocktails, because they are fabulous, offering something truly different. I tried a Fez, with P Especial, 10 year old port, lime, and red berries (£15). It’s deep red, spicy, and citrussy, served in a fine glass goblet and topped with red berries. Also divinely and exotically scented is the best-selling rose-tinged Anatolian Fizz (£17; Tanqueray, raspberry, lemon, rose, and champagne). If you don’t fancy a full meal you can drink these at the Mekan bar.
Foodwise we started with Çıtır Kalamar, from the bar-snack-style ‘to ponder’ section. It’s simit-coated baby squid (£9.50), the coating a kind of Turkish breadcrumb, the result a lightly spiced salt-and-pepper squid. It’s dipped into a tangy avocado haydari, creamy but with a hint of yoghurt. From the selection of cold starters we couldn’t resist the freshly shucked Jersey Oysters (£19.50), which are all about their topping of tomato, preserved lemon & pomegranate. I like my oysters undressed, but these are nevertheless memorably tangy and sweet, as well as prettier than your average oyster.
A soaring highlight, yet as beguiling simple as a Turkish take on Welsh Rarebit, is the aged Kashar Cheese Pide from the Black Sea (£15), with slow-cooked organic egg (£19), which is the ultimate in comfort food, a eye-shaped flatbread: the cheese is punchy and liquid, it merges with the egg. It’s the type of thing that should be prescribed after a particularly tough day.
For a main course, there’s, of course, plenty of choice for meat lovers, including kebabs featuring Wagyu beef or lamb, and we go for the 24-hour Slow Cooked Short Rib (£38.00 for two), served with Turkish chilli BBQ glaze, spiced konya, and which comes served on a large earthenware dish, with a slick of humus on the side. The slow cooking has done the business, and the meat falls apart as you touch it: it’s unexpectedly delicate for a dish of ribs. We also try the Monkfish Buğlama (£30.00), which is succulent, served with baby vegetables, beautifully plated on patterned ceramic, poured over with a mildly spicy saffron & tomato broth from a brass pot. This is the only dish I could have done without. Although the fish has a lovely meaty texture but with the delicacy of the firm white fish, the liquid it’s served in is too subtle to work any wonder.
Finally we’re recommended the tavuk göğsü (£7.50), a pannacotta-style dessert, served with salted walnut praline, mastika icecream and saffron honey, it’s round and plump, sweet and milky, and made with very finely ground…. chicken: more of a talking point than a dessert, but with a crème-caramel hit that makes it impossible to stop eating until the plate is scraped clean.
These are Mayfair prices, but, if you’re not on expenses or dipping into your vast private income, is it worth it? The answer is emphatically yes, do it, splash the cash: it’s creative cuisine that’s offering something different and the cocktails are genuinely transcendental (even just the one).
30 Upper Grosvenor St
Tel: 020 3848 6710