As soon as I stepped over the threshold at Yaz Restaurant, I realised this is no ordinary kebab shop. Based in Highams Park, this award-winning restaurant has a bar, lounge and beautiful balcony area.
They have won multiple awards for their delicious Turkish food and gorgeously decorated restaurant. When I arrived I was able to have a chat with owner Yaz himself. As I was waiting for the food to arrive Yaz took me on a tour of the restaurant. It was huge. The downstairs area had its own bar and an open view of the kitchen so you can look longingly at the chefs cooking up your meal.
There was a beautiful spiral staircase that was covered in fairy lights which took us up to the lounge and bar area on the second floor. It wasn’t in use when I was there as it was a Tuesday afternoon but Yaz told me that they have different DJs come in that play all genres of music over the weekend and in the summer the balcony area is full of customers who say that it feels like they’re in another (warmer) country.
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After my tour I came back to what I can only describe as a banquet fit for royalty. As I had let Yaz order for me it all came as a surprise but I was very happy to see a Lamb Shish on my table, which is my standard order when I’m feeling for Turkish food.
There were other dishes that I hadn’t tried before so without wasting any time I tucked right in. It was unlike any Turkish food I have ever had in my life. There was a vast menu full of food options I had never even heard of so when Yaz saw my indecisiveness he offered to order for me which I eagerly let him do.
I started with the Borek Pachanga, which to me looked like a samosa so when I took my first bite I was shocked. Borek Pachanga is one of Yaz’s signature dishes and is a ‘filo pastry folded with pastrami beef, diced peppers, onion, parsley and mozzarella cheese.’ Doesn’t that sound like a dream pastry filling? It was delicious and I will now be adding it to my order every time.
Then I tried one of my all time favourites, the Lamb Shish. It was unlike any other lamb shish I had ever had (and I’ve had quite a few). Yaz told me that they only use the best parts of the lamb so it’s a top quality cut and it definitely tasted like it. It was tender and juicy and had a unique flavour different from any other lamb I’ve ever tried, complemented perfectly by the side of pilau rice. Although it was pricey at £22 it was definitely worth it.
I had told Yaz that I’m a big fan of fish so he added the tiger prawns with tomato sauce, spring onion, red chilli pepper and parsley to my order and I couldn’t have been happier. They were super succulent and I love spice so popped one of the chillies onto my prawn and wow what an explosion of flavours.
Then came another signature dish, the Yaz Hummus which according to their menu is ‘hummus like no other’ and they were not lying. Topped with truffle oil, chestnut mushrooms and pine nuts, it created a nutty smooth and creamy combo that was honestly the best hummus I’ve ever had. I’m not too used to fancy food so trying the truffle oil was a big moment for me and I’ve fallen in love, I now want to put it on every meal I ever have. I was eating it with such enthusiasm that the waiters kept offering me more bread.
With so much success as a restaurant, winning the 2021 Best Chef Award and 2022 Best Restaurant in South and East London at the British Kebab Awards, I wanted to hear more about Yaz’s story. “I think it’s nice to get some recognition,” Yaz said about the awards. “I felt extremely grateful and proud, it was a mix of both emotions.”
Yaz originally ran a family business in Wood Street, Walthamstow before moving to Highams Park: “I started Yaz Restaurant because I had another restaurant nearby in Walthamstow, in Wood Street so I was running that as a family business for years and we were busy. I noticed a certain crowd coming in from Highams Park and they were telling me for years ‘Yaz, you need to come to Highams Park’. So I came to Highams Park because of my guests who were frequently visiting me in Teras asked me to come. So I started looking for venues.”
The pandemic was a struggle for many restaurants and Yaz Restaurant was no exception. He said: “We never used to do takeaways but I started doing takeaways over COVID.
“We were still able to open up and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the support of the locals supporting us with their orders, if it wasn’t for the support of the local authority and the local council. Our landlords supporting us, Tesco supporting us, saying ‘Let’s do what we can, we’re in it together’. We were very fortunate to make it through.”
I basically rolled my way home after that delicious meal knowing one thing for certain – I will definitely be back for more.
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