Featured Restaurant: Kayra

9th February 2018

141-143 Marsh Road, Pinner HA5 5PB • 020 8429 1259

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

With dark tables, chairs and floor, and walls of a pleasingly indeterminate shade somewhere between ecru and stone, there's a relaxed atmosphere at newly opened Turkish restaurant Kayra. The window onto the kitchen, where steam and smoke and flame can be seen, hints at exciting flavours to come.

Before long we have a large glass of a very drinkable red wine from the Anatolian region in one hand, the menu (of which more in a moment) in the other, and a dish of Turkish olives – marinated with garlic and lemon peel – in front of us. It's slightly disconcerting to eat them with one's fingers, but their good, mellow flavour is worth the inconvenience of having to constantly wipe one's hands to attend to the menu.

'This is freestyle dining', explains our waiter. The meze principle – a number of hot and cold dishes for everyone to dip into – is familiar, but at Kayra the idea extends to the skewer choices for the main course too. You can order any number of different shish, either for yourself, or on a platter for the table to share. Choose chips, or rice, or bulgar wheat, and select from a range of salads to complete your bespoke meal.

For our starters we pick Taramasalata, and crispy Calamari rings coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried, served with tartar sauce; we pick Hellim Shish,'the finest halloumi cheese cubed with sliced peppers, grilled and served on wooden skewers', and Ispanakli Peynirli Börek: feta cheese and spinach hand-crafted into a filo pastry parcel and deep fried. It's a good selection. The Calamari are melt-in-the-mouth perfect, and the light crumb coating is delicious, as is the zingy dip. It is to the Calamari that we return at that point in the meal when we are telling ourselves that really it's time to Stop Eating The Starters. The Hellim is a very simple offering, but has great flavour, especially when dipped in the herby oil; the Ispanakli Peynirli Börek takes a dish I know as the Greek Spanakopita and elevates it into something far greater than the sum of its parts. It's a touch salty, but nicely offset by the minty garlic yogurt.

The skewers – we've selected one each of Lamb Shish (prime cut rib-eye of lamb marinated in a 'special way' and chargrilled to perfection), Shish Kofte (handmade lamb mince, flavoured with herbs and peppers: a light dish carefully marinated for maximum flavour) and Spicy Chicken Thighs (boneless chicken thighs marinated in garlic, onion and mild chilli, cooked on the chargrill) – arrive on one sharing dish. The bulgar wheat and the salads (which add wonderful freshness to all the other rich flavours) aren't far behind.

What a feast! The Lamb Shish is tender and full of flavour; the Chicken Thighs are moist, and beautifully cooked, with moreish charcoal hints and a chilli sauce that packs a great punch. As for the Kofte, it is the best thing in the house (and that's high praise). The blend of herbs and spices is very well judged; the flavour and texture divine. I could eat this all evening.

With rose tea to cleanse the palate, and a home-made rice pudding – sweet, clean, creamy but not over-rich: surprisingly refreshing, in fact – the meal concludes as successfully as it began. Ten out of ten to Kayra: this modern 'freestyle dining' approach turns out to be a triumph.

STARTERS: £3.95 (1 meze) - £25.15 (8 meze)
MAINS:  £5.75 (1 shish) - £35 (8 shish)
or £9.90 - £14.50 (non-shish dishes)
DESSERTS: £1.20 - £4.50 • HOUSE WINE: £18.95

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