Thursday, 29 October 2009

Turkish Delight - Nar Restaurant and Bar

Vauxhall’s newest bar and restaurant Nar, which is Turkish for pomegranate, held a lavish launch party on Tuesday 26th May, complete with flowing champagne and rubber-clad sambuca distributors. Within walking distance of both the station and the river, Nar is housed in the cavernous railway arches of Albert Embankment.

The bar area is characterised by eclectic Turkish artefacts; brass lanterns, carved cabinets and ornate tiled panels set against the whitewashed walls and arched ceilings, working together rather than competing, to create an atmospheric and chic bar; perfect for post-work drinks. The impressive range of spirits behind the blue-lit bar including Tanqueray No. 10 and Belvedere Vodka certainly recommend Nar as a serious player in the cocktail stakes. The range of freshly squeezed juices including the unusual raspberry, cucumber and apple, mean that designated drivers are catered for just as impressively as drinkers.

The outdoor area, though roadside, seems like a pleasant place to enjoy a few beers on a Sunday afternoon. In an area which is poorly served for beer gardens, the residents of Vauxhall will just have to make do.

The restaurant area is an elegant dining space, with curved white ceilings and exposed beams. The walls are dotted with cabinets filled with pretty antiques to add a bit of interest to the bright and airy interior.

We enjoyed a meze menu including crowd-pleasers such as hummus, falafel, cacik and puffy flatbreads, as well as more unusual snacks such as midye – skewered mussels served with pickles. I could happily eat meze every day, so I may be biased, but I could have stuffed myself for hours with the tasty morsels and varied plates which included some pleasant surprises like a pomegranate-studded coriander salad. The chef at Nar manages to avoid the greasiness that occasionally accompanies Turkish cuisine, keeping everything light and refreshing.

The starters all come in at around the £5 mark with main courses venturing no further than £16 for a sirloin steak, which is a pleasant surprise considering the quality of the food and the standard of the surroundings. Vegetarians are also extremely well catered for, as is so often the case with Mediterranean fare.

Though I was tempted by almost everything on the menu, particularly the starter of Amavut Ciguri – fried lambs liver with red onion salad, I would suggest that the menu, at 8 pages, is too long and tries to spread itself too thinly, taking in Italian pizzas and pastas as well as Turkish meze and grills.

Nar is a welcome addition to the SE1 dining scene, which until fairly recently has been somewhat of a culinary desert. The elegant and well stocked bar, staffed by an attentive and knowledgeable team is a real bonus (the regular rumbles of trains passing overhead are not!) and I sincerely hope that this little corner of the Mediterranean stays afloat in South East London.

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