|Lara Restaurant Review|
Anne Flaherty enjoyed sampling Mediterranean cuisine
You can see the sun set over the Green from the window tables upstairs at Lara, the popular Mediterranean restaurant located at Bedford Park Corner at the end of Turnham Green Terrace. However, that’s not the only reason to visit this popular neighbourhood venue that has been serving delicious Mediterranean food to Chiswick locals for many years. The restaurant specializes in fresh fresh skewered meats and chicken cooked over the hot barbecue coals downstairs in the open kitchen.
Lara’s was formerly Andy’s Kebab House which opened in Chiswick in 1965. It became Lara ten years ago, and is located in a Tudor style building close to the tube station. Its popularity has endured while other restaurants have long packed up and gone, which shows that there is a market for simple food cooked well.
The fish and chip takeaway, the Cod Father, which was located on the ground floor, has now been closed and renovation has started so that the downstairs will now be part of Lara. The work is expected to be finished by the end of June, and they will be able to accommodate about 70 covers with plenty of space upstairs for private parties.
Lara is an unassuming sort of place. The decor is a homely blend of exposed brick walls and wooden floors and is not flashy. There is a warm welcome and well-cooked, nicely presented food which is styled Mediterranean with a Turkish influence. When I visited recently there was a varied clientele, three people were dining alone and there were couples, as well as family groups. Our host Kamber (pictured above with the chef) greeted us warmly, insisting that we be seated at a table where we could watch the sunset.
We decided against the tempting plate of Mixed Mezze (five cold and two hot starters) in favour of lentil soup for my husband and some hummous and Hellim Izgara (halloumi cheese) for me. Some restaurants serve hummous which is so pureed it is like baby food, but here the hummous was of a chunky texture and flavoured with garlic. It was served with warmed pitta bread, pickle and garnished with chopped red pepper. The lentil soup was served with fresh bread made on the premises and a garnish of lemon slice and dill. Both starters were excellent and nicely served with a sprinkling of the Middle Eastern herb Zatar, on plain white dishes.
Other cold starter choices include Taramasalata, Tabbouleh,( chopped parsley salad) Cacik (yoghurt with cucumber and mint, Zeytin Yagli Sarma (stuffed vine leaves) or Yogurtlu Bakla (broad beans with yoghurt, peppers and dill. The hot hot starters included Kalamari, Falafel, Sucuk (spicy sausage), or Ispanakli (filo pastry filled with feta cheese and spinach).
There is a wide choice of barbecued meat from the Charcoal Grills and this is what Lara is famed for. Choices include several shish (skewered) dishes including Kofte (minced lamb kneaded with spices and herbs; Kuzu shish (marinaded lamb cubes), the ‘Bedford Park’ special ( marinaded lamb and chicken) or Tavuk Kanat ( chicken wings).
We opted for the Tavuk Sish ( marinaded chicken cubes) and the Karisik Izgara which consisted of lamb, chicken and kofte. Main courses are served with salad, rice, or couscous.
The chicken was plentiful, succulent and tender. It was served with a mound of white rice, mixed with a little brown rice for texture, a salad garnish, tomato and pickles. The mixed platter was a carnivore’s delight, an enormous mound of meat, each giving a different flavour and texture. The lamb was moist and tender, the kofte delicately spiced. A green chilli sauce and a yoghurt and mint sauce were also served alongside.
I had two glasses of the house white wine to accompany my main course and we also asked for sparkling water. There are several vegetarian options including aubergine dishes or fish and apart from grilled meats the menu includes choices including turkish-styled lamb or chicken casseroles as well as fish.
As we tucked in the restaurant began to get busy with the arrival of a number of family groups who all seemed to be regulars. The early evening solo diners had by then folded their newspapers up and left.
We were too full up to have dessert though we could have chosen a selection of Baklava, the sweet Middle Eastern pastries stuffed with nuts and cinnamon, or Sutlac (vanilla rice pudding) Some Turkish mint tea was just the right digestif with which to end a a very good meal.
The prices at Lara are competitive, with main courses averaging at £10. If you don’t feel like cooking the takeaway menu offers good-value chicken or lamb shish or doner kebabs for between £5 and £6.50.
Lara has just introduced a new special of a wrap and chips for just under a fiver, which is ideal for a quick lunch. And you can still eat outside at the tables on the pavement. Chiswick has many restaurants but for good value, freshly cooked food, Lara is difficult to beat.
Lara is located at 3-4 Bedford Park Corner, Turnham Green Terrace, W41LS. Telephone 0208 9953779
May 31, 2013