Restaurant review: Turkish restaurant in Berkhamsted serves a cracking creme brulee
- Credit: Brian Arnopp
Founded in St Albans before expanding to Berkhamsted and soon Harpenden, modern Turkish restaurant Tabure offers tradition and buzz, writes Richard Cawthorne.
Of all the recent food fashions, Turkish is proving one of the most popular – exciting dishes with unfamiliar spices and exotic names often presented with a full-on enthusiasm not everyone can match.
Hertfordshire has not been slow to join the trend, with several highly thought of restaurants around the county.
One of the first was Tabure, which opened in St Albans in 2015. It was an instant hit, enough for its creators, Mark Pearse and his Turkish wife Hulya, to launch a twin in Berkhamsted two years later.
Tabure (pronounced Tabur-ay, the Turkish word for footstool, a symbol of welcome) has now become a brand, with Tabure III poised to open in Harpenden any time now.
I went to review the Berkhamsted outlet to test how the concept is working in a particularly competitive market in the aftermath of lockdown.
The answer is well, aided possibly by a crème brulee dessert which had my fellow critic in raptures. Arriving on what turned out to be a wet and chilly Thursday in June, we found a nearly full restaurant.
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Mark and Hulya’s website pledge of ‘a modern Turkish kitchen offering great quality fresh and nutritious recipes handed down and perfected over many generations in a buzzy and vibrant atmosphere’ clearly strikes a chord in trendy Berkhamsted as in St Albans.
Customers have responded by lifting the business to third of 43 restaurants in the town on TripAdvisor with an average score of 4.5 out of five from 282 reviews.
The adventure starts with the large menu, sprinkled liberally with Turkish words and phrases fortunately backed up with the English translations.
In the mezze tradition, Tabure suggests customers order two or three dishes each, and share them round the table. If you don’t feel like sharing, the menu advises choosing a meat or fish dish and adding a vegetable, salad or dip to create a meal for one.
Easing into the spirit of the place, we began with a bowl of marinated green and black Mediterranean olives (£4.50) with lightly pickled baby onions and tiny gherkins, followed by a smoky and smooth chargrilled aubergine babaganus (£7) with pitta bread, garlic, tahini and lemon juice.
It was a toss-up between the artichokes and a colourful and good looking hummus for the second starter but as it is a house special, Hulya’s grilled artichokes (£8.50), marinated in fresh dill and garlic with beetroot crisps, almonds and celeriac purée, won us over, and was every bit as good as it sounds.
Mains were led by keskek - a small stew - of organic pulled shoulder of lamb (£15) served with barley risotto and slow cooked with urfa chilli dressing, another unfamiliar dish for me but well worth getting to know and both tasty and substantial.
Lamb also featured in the second main, a mezze-style dish of two free range chargrilled cutlets (£14) marinated in garlic, urfa isot chilli and red ezme (mashed) salsa.
Again, plenty of flavour with getting to know the ingredients almost as much fun as eating the meal.
Side dishes began with nohut guvec, or chickpeas in an earthenware pot (£10), with aubergines, kapya pepper piperade, basil oil and labne, another happy combo of the familiar with exotic add-ons.
Next in line, more prosaically but similar, was butternut squash (£8) with the addition of sun-dried red pepper and chilli rub, crispy shallots and almonds, plus a tahini and yogurt dressing.
A beetroot kisir, or tabbouleh (£6.50) rounded it all off, served with a bulgur wheat salad with vine tomato, cucumber and fresh herbs.
As for the rapture-inducing dessert, it was not just any crème brûlée, but a salted pistachio crème brûlée (£7) infused with Turkish Delight and rosewater and served in an ornate dish - the bowls and other containers used to hold the food are another Tabure feature. Happy faces all round.
My other half is still talking about it, ‘spectacular’ being one of the milder descriptions used.
No surprise then to hear we liked Tabure’s Berkhamsted offshoot, run enthusiastically by manager Ertunc, known by many as Eddy, and head chef Bogdan.
Mark and Hulya’s enterprise now moves on to Harpenden, where work to expand the Tahini restaurant into the shop next door to create a 56 cover dining is under way.
The Pearses are recruiting a whole new team, including kitchen and front of house staff - any CVs, says Mark, are most welcome.
Dinner for two at Tabure Berkhamsted cost £90.95 including drinks and service. This is an independent review featuring a restaurant selected by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
Tabure; 157-159 High Street, Berkhamsted, HP4 3HB; Monday to Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday 5pm-11pm; Saturday 12pm-11pm; tabure.co.uk