This week saw the opening of a new restaurant in the heart of St Albans called Tabure Kitchen and Bar – introducing us to the delights of Turkish or Anatolian food, with a fresh and contemporary spin. I was invited to a pre-launch evening, and popped back in a few days later during their debut lunch service for a taste of Turkish cuisine. On both occasions, the food was perfectly matched with a warm welcome and a stunning interior – equally enchanting by day and by night.
Billed as “Turkish home cooking enjoyed with friends and family around the table,” the food at Tabure is based around the heritage recipes of owner Hulya, who has set about this new venture with her husband Mark. The menu is inspired by some of the dishes that Hulya most craves from her hometown on the Aegean coast in Turkey.
Having previously run a smaller restaurant business in neighbouring Harpenden, Mark and Hulya have now taken over a space on Spencer Street (formerly a Japanese restaurant) completely transforming it into something modern, welcoming and unique.
Mediterranean tiles adorn a sweeping oak-topped bar, reclaimed bricks add detail to some of the walls and an open ‘robata’ grill, around which you can also dine, allows you to see some of the food being cooked for you.
Unique photographs around the restaurant give you a glimpse of a local life in Turkey – pomegranate juice for sale by the side of the road, Turkish coffee served in delicate glasses, spice markets and fresh food aplenty.
Hulya also hand-selected and sourced tableware and decorative lamps from Turkey, providing authentic and homely finishing touches to their new dining space – extreme prop and design envy on my behalf!
The menu opens with an Aperatif section, which introduces many vegetable-based ‘tapas’ style sharing plates and dips. On my first visit, I sat down a little later than my food-loving counterparts, but was immediately presented with a glass of champagne and a type of Turkish-inspired bruschetta called Domatesli Ekmek – chargrilled sourdough with tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Alongside this, pan-fried mixed peppers in olive oil with a garlic dip and then, vegetarian and vegan-friendly Mercimek Koftes, made with red lentils, bulgur wheat, spring herbs and red pepper paste.
A glass of light Sauvignon Blanc ‘Son Excellence’ perfectly partnered a delicate, single, lightly battered courgette flower, filled with lor (ricotta).
The aubergine ‘Babagunus’ provided a smoky note, whilst the courgette ‘tarator’ – a light dip made with marinated, griddled courgettes, garlic, olive oil, fresh labne yoghurt and finely chopped walnuts was good enough to entice me back for more on my second visit.
For the meat eaters, still on the Aperatif side of the menu, Baharatli Chicken Wings (below) marinated with spiced yoghurt, lemon and oregano, or the more unusual Dil Sogus – braised veal tongue, served with cornichons and mustard vinaigrette.
Fish is a big part of Turkish cuisine owing to an abundance of coastal catches and owners Mark and Hulya have meticulously chosen their suppliers to secure the freshest and most sustainable fish they can; a point which is echoed in all of their supplier selections.
On the evening of the pre-launch, I tried the Lemon Sole (below) and the Monkfish ‘cop sis’ (£10.00) – a fish skewer marinated with warm spices, garlic, lemon & touch of chilli and grilled. The Sea bream fillet had been wrapped in vine leaves and cooked over charcoal – this was meltingly tender and quickly devoured. The standout fish dish for me was the Baked cod – a very generous piece of fresh cod with an unusual accompaniment of chickpeas in a tahini sauce.
Our fish dishes were served with a fresh Samphire salad (Hulya recalls lots of samphire in her early years in Turkey) with garlic and olive oil. Other sides include Roasted cauliflower with saffron and raisins, Grilled Agaean vegetables or a traditional Sehriyeli pilav – a short-grained Baldo rice cooked with vermicelli noodles and butter. A bowlful of this rice is something that you could happily scoop up with almost anything on the menu.
The meat at Tabure is locally sourced where possible and reared on small British farms. The chicken, Hulya says, is always free-range, “because that is what we eat at home”. Most of it is cooked on a grill, and we sampled a chicken skewer cooked this way. However, on both visits, I was especially taken by the Lamb ‘sac tava’ – a light stew, served on a traditional handmade flat dish from Diyarbakir with fresh tomatoes, sweet green Turkish peppers and plenty of parsley.
Turkish food isn’t particularly spicy, though spice blends and fresh herbs are used to create delicate and palatable flavours.
All the dishes on the menu are designed for sharing, with plenty of advice on hand for how to create the prefect Turkish feast. In addition to your Aperativ choices, you also have Fish, Meat, Vegetables & Sides to chose from. Two additional sections are highlighted on the menu – a choice of the ‘Sac Tava’ served on a flat tava dish (below) and the ‘Cop Sis’ kebabs which are cooked on the grill.
If there’s any room for dessert, I’d highly recommend the Crème Brulee Sutlac – a homely rice pudding with a crunchy topping and cinnamon shortbread. Or, as recommended on my second visit, the Mozaik Chocolate Cake – a layered slice of chocolate mousse with sponge and dried fruit.
Turkish-inspired cocktails also provide the perfect start, or finish, to an evening’s celebration.
Dining at Tabure (on both occasions) left me with a real sense that a dream has been realised here. Heritage cooking is not something that you can mimic or replicate – it is something that comes from a place where good food is both the beginning point and the end point of any happy gathering.
Whilst the more familial Turkish dishes on the menu provide an ultimate hit of comfort, there is also more freshness, texture and an emphasis on high quality ingredients to be appreciated, too.
Tabure gives a proud nod to tradition in recreating handed-down recipes, whilst creating something original, modern and unique – and this is an experience that I am confident will captivate diners and provide them with ample reasons to keep coming back.
Tabure Turkish Kitchen and Bar
6 Spencer Street,
Booking by phone or online via website here
Disclosure: I was a guest of Tabure during the evening of their press/blogger pre-launch and dined at my own expense during my lunchtime visit.