Much as I love living near Angel, I must admit that the local restaurant scene often disappoints. So imagine my surprise when, two weeks ago, we re-visited Gem and enjoyed the food immensely? I like it so much that I went back again last night, and now I think it’s the perfect place to go when you can’t be bothered to cook. After all, it’s cheap, it’s filling, the food’s pretty tasty, and you never need to book in advance.
Years ago, Jon and I had been to Gem before, and my overall impression during that visit was of eating in a dark cave. As I recall, the place’s decor used to consist of dark wood with lots of hulking farm implements suspended from the ceiling. Oh, and there used to be what appeared to be a large stone firepit in the back. In short, the place was kind of scary.
But Gem’s all different now. The farm implements are still hanging around, but they seem cheery and rustic, rather than huge and scary. And the food – particularly the meze – are great. I’ve opted for Menu B both times recently, which includes bread, 7 cold and 3 hot meze, any main course from the menu, and a dessert. It’s a ton of food for GBP 11.95, and frankly, I’ve been overwhelmed both times I’ve ordered it and had to take some food home. (You’d think I’d learn).
First, the breads. They’re hot and delicious. I love the puffed up bread, which reminds me of poori, except not fried, so I felt virtuous and healthy tearing off pieces for all the various yogurt-based dips. And underneath the puffed-up bread are slices of pillowy (sadly, this is what I call it) “Turkish bread.”
Fried goodies were standouts. Mucver, which are vegetable fritters with a slight cheesy tang, could have used a bit more vegetable, but otherwise, they’re hot and crispy, making them the perfect comfort food on a cold winter’s night.
Muska boregi, feta cheese inside a crisp, fried pastry shell. What’s not to love?
After all that delicious and filling meze, the main courses were superfluous. That said, my main course of beyti (which I couldn’t really distinguish from the “kofte” I’ve had at other Turkish grills) was moist and meaty, and I was glad to take the leftovers home with me.
Next time, I’ll order “Menu C,” think, because it’s “just” 7 cold and 6 hot meze. I’m hoping it’ll be the right amount of food. Not that it’s so awful having leftovers for home.
Gem, 265 Upper Street, N1 2UQ; 020 7359 0405; closest tube station: Angel