The Counter | A Top-Tier Modern Ocakbasi Restaurant in Notting Hill
Not so long ago, Notting Hill wasn’t exactly somewhere you’d head for vibey, cutting-edge restaurants. Don’t get us wrong; the neighbourhood had more than its fair share of Michelin stars, well-heeled brasseries, and bougie brunch spots. But few people would have said it was a destination dining spot in the way that, say, Shoreditch was.
Well, here’s The Counter argument.
Image: Sam Harris
West London’s restaurant renaissance is now in full flow. Some of the world’s most exciting chefs are choosing this neighbourhood for their debut restaurants. It’s home to Fadi Kattan’s outstanding Palestinian restaurant, Akub; Endo Kazutoshi’s more casual sushi spot, SUMI; and the effortlessly stylish Dorian. Golborne Road alone now has Caia, Straker’s, and The Butter Club. And opening quietly at the vanguard of it all was The Counter, an exceptional modern ocakbaşı restaurant celebrating the elemental, transformative powers of the Turkish grill.
The place has undeniable charm from the moment you step through the wired glass doors. Exposed brick walls and roughly hewn plaster envelop the dining room, contrasting with its polished chestnut tables, wishbone chairs and buttery soft banquette seating. The glimmer of candlelight sits in your peripheral vision at all times. And towards the back of the space, commanding half the restaurant, is the counter itself – a sleekly curving bar with a striking copper canopy, both of which surround the open kitchen where an impressive number of chefs move from prep station to grill with almost balletic choreography.
Image: Sam Harris
The Counter marks the London debut for Kemal Demirasal, a self-taught chef who wrapped up his career as a six-time Turkish national windsurfing champion to become one of the most celebrated chefs in Turkey. Here, his mission is to gather the best ingredients from the Anatolian region, and infuse them with smokiness over the charcoal grill using a variety of traditional techniques. In London, open fire cooking tends to take the heavy metal approach: tattooed chefs wrestling five-foot-high flames and extolling the virtues of whole beast butchery. Demirasal’s place is an altogether more romantic pursuit. His dishes are crafted with salt dried under the Aegean sun, knives forged in Tarsus, tahini from the specialists who have been making it since 1775. The Counter’s warmth extends far beyond the grill – and that all begins with Demirasal, who’ll momentarily leave the kibbeh sizzling gently on the stove just to lean over the counter and top up your water glass.
Image: Sam Harris
And those kibbeh – balls of pounded bulgur wheat with mince or lentils encased in a crisp, chewy shell – are just some of the mouthwatering parade of dishes that are on offer here. There are charred flatbreads to swoosh through firm tzatziki studded with jewels of tart pickle; a fragrantly-dressed bean salad with an egg yolk to stir through; beef skewers and lamb chops kissed by the grill; slivers of crispy potato fries and, for the adventurous, trotter soup, sweetbreads, and the marriage of sheep tongue & brain affectionately known as head cheese. The must-order? The white chocolate babaganoush; a combination of flavours that must have been transmitted directly from heaven, and that will require considerable willpower not to order again for dessert.
The Counter’s signature cocktails, devised by acclaimed mixologist Cihan Anadologlu, make perfect partners for the food; mezcal mirrors the smokiness of the grill, while haleppo chilli, red pepper and şalgam (a fermented carrot & turnip juice traditionally served with kebabs) find their way into the mix too. But there’s also a carefully chosen list of wines from Turkey and its neighbours Greece and Croatia; and a selection of the country’s signature grape spirit, raki.
There’s a strong argument to try some of that, too.
NOTE: The Counter is open daily for lunch and dinner (dinner only on Mondays). You can find out more, and make a booking, HERE.
The Counter | 108 Golborne Road, Notting Hill, W10 5PS
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