Let's start this post off with quite a big claim: Ozlem Restaurant on Prince George Road in Dalston is the best Turkish restaurant in an area where there are plenty of examples of the genre, and therefore the best in London. The efforts of those in Green Lanes come close, but none of them can match Ozlem for pure deliciousness when it comes to the eating.
We visited on Christmas day and unsurprisingly they were open. Calling early on the 25th to find out if they would be open, the man on the other end replied sharply that of course they would. Upon arriving it was pleasantly busy and everyone in the restaurant was Turkish - always a good sign. That's the thing about Ozlem. It's full of people who like authentic Turkish food cooked brilliantly, unlike other more hyped restaurants nearby, perhaps due to the side street location, or perhaps not a lot has been written about the restaurant. I'm not sure, but it should be a lot busier.
Anyway, on to what we ate. There was a lot of food, and a lot of it on the house. Not a case of special treatment for regular patrons, but rather an act of both courtesy and hospitality for their customers.
Out first was the esme salad. I suppose this is kind of a Turkish rendition of a tabbouleh with an added kick. The hot chilli comes from fresh green peppers, while a fresh zing not too dissimilar to a pico de gallo comes from lemon juice and tomatoes. A great, fresh tasting salad.
Hummus is a starter that perhaps orders itself and is always welcome on the table, particularly here where they do it particularly well. Packed with more garlic than a Lebanese version and topped with sumac, it provides a great dip for some of Ozlem's warmed-up pide bread.
The main starter ordered for the table was lahmacun, otherwise known as Turkish pizza, only resembling a pizza in it's circular shape. Topped with a light smear of tomato sauce, minced lamb, onions and peppers, this thinly rolled bread is great when done well. In my opinion no where does it better than Ozlem, which specialises in lahmacun (they call themselves a lahmacun salonu). Each triangle of the lahmacun is a joy when packed with the regulation salad which counteracts the full buttery mouth feel with an acidic zing.
My mum went for the special of the day, which was an aubergine filled with mincemeat and onions and sitting in a tomato broth. Rather bland sounding but executed well with great ingredients and clear flavours that complimented each other. The broth proved great for dipping bread in.
A grilled onion salad was brought out (gratis) to accompany and counteract the fat of the grilled meats we had ordered for our main courses. The salad consisted of a plate of onions in pomegranate molasses, sumac and parsley. Surprisingly delicious.
I decided to go with my favourite, the adana. The Turkish name for kofte, which had a beautiful charred flavour from the ocakbasi grill, while the parsley, onion and pepper provide enough flavour to compliment the minced lamb. The two skewers of meat arrived sitting on a piece of bread that soaked up the juices, while some beautifully buttery rice sat in a mound on the side with some pretty pointless tomatoes and a chilli pepper.
Ordering a dish from the 'kebabs' section of the menu results in the plates looking pretty similar apart from the choice of meat sitting on the bread. My brother went for the cop sis, cubes of lamb cooked on the grill and then topped with butter. Beautifully rich meat and perhaps the strongest item on the menu. Seriously delicious, the best lamb shish I've ever tasted.
My dad went for the lamb chops (pirzola). Cooked perfectly, seasoned well and incredibly tender, these are also a good choice but not something I'd personally order. For lamb chops I can't look much past those at Needoo Grill, though these are tasty.
Some complimentary tea is brought out at the end and there's never any room for the desserts on offer, such as baklava and rice pudding. This meal for four people to stuff themselves silly comes in at £55 including a sizeable tip, though that's without any alcohol. Seriously cheap however you look at it. Time Out would do well to recommend this place instead of those they said would be open on Christmas Day with ridiculously expensive set menus. If you're looking for a great Turkish restaurant then I can't recommend Ozlem enough. Great staff and great food.