What Mare Street lacks in superficial charm it more than makes up for in variety. From Hackney Empire to the Green Papaya, to a candle factory and the picturesque town square, not to mention that rarest of East London beasts, a cash point that doesn’t charge you to access your own money… it’s a unique street, and not a Starbucks in sight, either.
But the main reason I go to Mare Street is for a Turkish dinner at Anatolya. This restaurant – like the nearby library – seems busier than ever since the British economy keeled over. You can get takeaway, but it’s worth hanging around and eating in, especially in winter when the huge ocakbasi barbecue warms up the room.
The service is reliably good – it’s one of those restaurants where they know people are going to leave happy so they don’t panic at the sight of customers – and it’s especially good on Friday nights when it seems half of Hackney decides to go out for a cheeky kebab. And unlike some other restaurants/pubs around here the prices are honest and there’s no fashion police, so you get all types, colours and ages, from fashion students and artists to local families celebrating birthdays.
Anyway, enough about the ambience, what about the food? Well, start with the lahmacun, or Turkish pizza, which comes with salad. Then go onto a kebab or grilled fish – the mackerel is really good, and popular, too, so it’s always fresh. You can get yogurtli adana, which is a kebab cooked in yogurt with pita and caramelised butter (the kind of thing you get at Moro, but without the three-week waiting list) and everything comes with salad and rice.
All the meat is cooked by one chef, just pictured above, who mans the ocakbasi with skill – his kebabs are always perfectly cooked. To drink there’s a good range of Turkish wines and Efe beer by the glass, or ayran yogurt drink or apple tea. I’ve never tried the desserts as I’m always too stuffed but they look good. And the bill (which is around twelve quid a head, including drinks) always comes with a couple of cubes of Turkish delight. Well, apart from last Friday night when only the icing sugar remained – as I said, this place is getting popular.
253 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 3NS, Tel: 020 8986 2223