The longer you have to wait for a treat, the sweeter the taste. Months ago we promised ourselves the reward of a slap-up dinner to celebrate the new job that I didn’t yet have. We’d even chosen the restaurant: Sarastro, a turkish restaurant with a difference, in London’s Covent Garden. If you’ve walked up Drury Lane chances are you’ll have noticed a corner with lush and extravagant greenery, where the building has extended tentacles of foliage right across the pavement. A. said it was one of the places that he most wanted to visit, whilst I’d been lucky enough to visit before and jumped at the chance of returning. So, finally, the new job was in the bag and we were off for a long-awaited celebratory dinner.
Pre-theatre dinner can be fun, but a little theatre with dinner is a joy. I don’t mean the performance type (although there was some live music, and more on that later), but the theatre of the restaurant itself. The interior at Sarastro is sumptuous, intriguing and truly eccentric; Arabian Nights meets shabby chic. There are ten opera boxes that create a mezzanine seating area, and a long central seating area that ends below the ‘royal box’. We’d pre-booked a small side box, which doubled as a secluded romantic nest and a great spying spot to keep an eye on the rest of the diners.
The menu is Turkish-inspired and offers a good breadth of choice. We decided to share a couple of starters, although they were so delicious that it was less a case of sharing and more a reluctant barter. A. chose deep fried calamari with pea purée and lemon aioli and I couldn’t resist the temptation of cheese borek, puffy little cheesy parcels with a tahini and yoghurt dip. I did manage to wrestle a piece of calamari onto my plate and can tell you that both starters were delicious.
Our lovely waiter made sure that we had plenty of time to enjoy the starters and didn’t rush us into the main course, a simple customer-led approach that more restaurants would do well to learn from! There was a plentiful choice of fish, veggie and more traditional Turkish cuisine options and I chose the Akcabat Kofte, a traditional dish of minced beef and lamb, grilled pepper, onion salad and tomato with chilli sauce – yum! We both try to avoid too much meat and often go for vegetarian or vegan options but this was a special night and A. chose the rare treat of a sirloin steak with sauteed fresh spinach and a side of chips. We were very happy diners.
The leisurely pace of the meal gave us chance to savour our surroundings, although you could come here many times and still find little details to enjoy. We enjoyed the accompaniment of some live music from the in-house Latin Trio – there’s something on every night of the week here, and it adds to the eccentricity of the place. What started as a little latin rhythm quickly morphed into Europop as the band got the measure of the large group of friends who couldn’t wait to get on the dancefloor, swiftly joined by quite a few of the other diners.
We probably shouldn’t have had room for dessert, but everyone has a little extra room in their ‘pudding stomach’ don’t they? A. didn’t seem too keen on sharing (again) but was eventually persuaded by the homemade apple & almond cake. And it was worth it for the sumptuous pudding of caramelised apple, cinnamon, sultanas and dates with a little vanilla ice cream on the side.
We happily wandered out into the Covent Garden evening feeling that we have given our milestone all the celebration that it deserved. Thank you Sarastro – we will be back!
Listen in to our post-dinner chat here:
Go! Really. This has to be on the must-visit list, especially if you like the quirky and unexpected. It more than makes up for the long list of rather off-putting terms and conditions that you get when you book online!
Loo Review (PMC Rating): ★★★★★ You have to see these loos to really appreciate them. Erotic art might not be to everyone’s taste, but it made us laugh and they’re certainly a talking point.
Sarastro, 126 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5SU Friday, July 13th 2018