First Published November 2010
Lark Lane has, for many a year, been home to an array of restaurants of variable quality and persistence. Morranto’s and Kieth’s Wine Bar have been long time occupants of Lane addresses, whereas many others have come and gone. Currently, and for the last few years, one of these addresses has been home to Elif, a Turkish barbecue restaurant near the Park Road end. Myself and Lilly took our seats on a blustery Thursday night ready to test Elif’s growing reputation. First and foremost before entering the door you can see the large copper clad charcoal grill taking centre stage in the middle of the restaurant. It’s a clear statement of what to expect, there will be no jus or puree, no ballotine or bouquets; you will get simple food cooked over a wonderful charcoal grill. This is what Elif does, and it’s what Elif does very well.
Having eaten here on several occasions, I’ve had a variety of mezze for starters, and its conceivable to just have mezze for the whole meal. In this instance we stuck to a more formal three course affair, with Izgara Kofte (meatballs in a rich tomato an pepper sauce) and Karides (Kings prawns grilled with garlic butter). Both dishes where excellent having been cooked very well. The prawns were soft, sweet and tender, with the hint of charcoal from the cooking and beautiful garlic butter. The meat balls were tender lamb with lovely charred outside and slightly pink inside, well seasoned and full of flavour they were possible the high point of the meal. This was accompanied with some turkish bread warmed over the grill that is provided with all starters.
For the main courses we had Patlicanli Kebab, grilled lamb with fried aubergine, and Karisik a turkish mixed grill of lamb, chicken, lamb chop and adana kebab. The main dishes were both hearty in size, coming with a more than ample serving of rice, this along with a large side salad that comes with all main courses and some grilled onions made for a very large meal. Even those with the biggest of appetites will not go hungry here, and all this at a reasonable price. In this country a BBQ can conjure up memories of summer days with burnt sausages and cheap burgers. Despite its simplicity I’ve beheld travesties of such abhorrent nature committed in its saintly name, that at times I fear the word barbecue. At elif however, the food is very good with simple controlled heat all the meat cooked for our mains had a wonderfully deep charcoaly, smokey flavour accompanying tender, moist and tasty meat. No cremated crusts containing raw middles and no meat so tough you could beat someone to death with it. The accompaniments such as grilled aubergine and the tomato sauce were again simple and delicious.
Alas for all the simplicity of starters and mains, one would hope that same trend would be carried on to dessert. Our Dondurma (ice cream) including turkish delight flavour was very nice and clearly of good quality, however over the top additions of whipped cream strawberries and syrup weren’t needed, especially since the cream came straight from a UHT squirty can. The same can be said of the baklava, which itself was scrumptious and needed only to be put onto a plate, the further addition of squirty cream and syrup did nothing for it. I would highly recommend you to do as we did and eat around the silly garnish.
We left Elif feeling extremely full, and may take a more considered approach when ordering next time. Apart from the the over the top deserts, the meal was very good, sticking to the idea of simplicity, and worth the £47.20 for two people. I don’t know of any restaurants that do a similar style in Liverpool, there are certainly other greek and turkish establishments, but having the charcoal grill as centre-piece is something novel (please get in touch if I’m wrong). I would recommend a meal here to anyone who asked. Very good