Day 60? Day 70? We’re now two-plus months into lockdown, and the days are all blending into one (for me at least!). As a 90s-baby I’ve seen a lot, but this does top it all. Who could have imagined that a pandemic would grip the entire world in such a way this year. My lockdown cravings this week have taken me back to my roots and to this week’s restaurant in question: Tas. Afterall, no other cuisine can match Turkish charcoal grilled food, which this chain is all too familiar with!
Food - 7.5/10
Ambiance - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Value for Money - 6.5/10
Upmarket chain with various Anatolian style Turkish options including charcoal grills, seafood, hot and cold mezes.
Price range: ££
Telephone: 020 7928 2111
Address: 33 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF
Nearest Station: Southwark
Tas started off in 1999 at The Cut in Southwark, which is the branch in-review here. The chain is now synonymous with contemporary Turkish cuisine and they have built up a reputable brand, spanning half a dozen locations across London. Hazev, located in the city’s financial district, is their best offering both in style (situated on the waterfront of Canary Wharf) and substance (featuring a bar and vast array of dining options). Go later in the evening at dusk or as the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf turn their lights on, for the best atmosphere. Back to Tas at The Cut though, which is the branch that the chain is most well known for. Although there is plenty of choice along The Cut, there are few Turkish options as refined as Tas, and that’s why it’s the standout choice if you are craving Anatolian, or Mediterranean cuisine in general around Southwark or London’s south bank along the Thames.
You’ll be warmly greeted as you enter. The seating arrangement is what I would describe as ‘boxy’ and slightly narrow/compact. When I visited, shortly before the evening rush, there was still plenty of room but space is probably a little bit of a luxury when the restaurant is at capacity and full board.
At a Turkish restaurant my habit is to order either a Chicken Sarma Beyti or an Iskender kebab. While the Sarma Beyti does not vary too much chain-to-chain, you will see a lot more variety in the presentation and execution of an Iskender. As Tas was a bit more upmarket than your ordinary Turkish restaurant, I opted for the Iskender because I was interested to see their adaptation of a classic. If you are not familiar with it, an Iskender is a plate of thinly cut grilled lamb, with tomato sauce and melted butter on top, served on a bed of cubed bread (or croutons) and a good dollop of yogurt. It’s divine.
I received a lovely and elegant plate of food. I’d been trained to expect a plate of rough cut slices of meat layered onto bread and with sauce/butter on top, but you could tell this had thought and care put into it. The most eye-catching feature was sauce, which, for want of a better phrase, the meat was completely submerged in. At the same time, the meat was carefully organised and placed onto the bread. It wasn’t a typical Iskender on the face of it, but it looked hearty and warm all the same.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable plate of food; although my initial gut-reaction was that it shouldn’t be called an Iskender – because the sauce appeared too much, the yogurt appeared too little, and the meat did not appear like on an ‘Iskender’, it was an interesting take on a classic. On reflection, it made sense for Tas, as it was a contemporary and refined adaption of a classic.
The sauce appeared overbearing but it was completely the right amount. It was rich, and thick. The bread was handmade and cut into chunks. It wasn’t as crispy as I wanted, instead it was soft and fluffy – but it went well with the sauce. The meat though was the standout part of the meal. Delicate, and carefully cooked on the Tas charcoal grill; I was sad to finish it. I do think that the dollop of yogurt wasn’t sufficient though – traditionally you’d have a heaped spoonful or spoonfuls, while this was more of a standard spoonful. It was perhaps the only mark against what is otherwise a great meal – even if it’s not a proper Iskender!
Tas is very much towards the higher end of the two-pound sign ‘££’ budget range, but I did find the quality of the meat to be of a noticeably higher standard compared to other restaurants across the same budget range. At Tas, you’ll also be spoilt for choice in terms of mezes (both hot and cold), and my recommendation is Humus and Ispanakli Yogurt, to make it a rounded Mediterranean meal, but they are priced expensively at almost £6 each.
I’ll be sure to review a classic interpretation of Iskender in a future review. For the time being, and in the current climate, I would take any interpretation of it though!
Speak to you next time!