Out of nowhere I not only heard about a burger place but I saw it getting ready for it. Street Burger had just popped up and opened right near where I live. It was now officially open and I had to go.
Once inside everyone seemed excited and eager which was good. The vibe was relaxed to a point but the anticipation from everyone, especially my belly and taste buds was making the whole occasion a bit nervy for me.
The waitress had earlier recommended having the chicken burger and thankfully Laura ordered it. I went for a cheeseburger as it seems like the best way to test a new place. I am not a professional food critique so 'test' is not the best word, so the cheeseburger was for comparison purposes and I WANTED IT.
Where do the people in the know recommend you go to eat Turkish food in London: they recommend. Yeni Umut 2000 Ockbasi Restaurant. When i say they, i mean my friend told me, so the two of us met and feasted.
From the outside it does look like a takeaway place, but one thing that struck me as odd and also very cool, was that there was no doner meat hanging in the shop window. Therefore I immediately felt that this was a promising sign. Once inside there was a vibe of a BBQ going on with the charcoal and kebabs cooking away and the smoke floating away up the vent. The best way to do kebabs is with charcoal, end of the argument there.
We ordered the very reasonably priced mixed grill for two which included the plate above and the one below. Great value and great quality. The starters were very tasty with the usual favourites of humus, taramasalata, vine leaves and Turkish classics of Cacik (yoghurt with garlic, mint and cucumber), Pilaki (pinto beans) and patlican soslu (aubergine and green peppers in a tomato sauce). With nice freshly baked bread, this was a great way to start.
For main course, we got what every warm blooded male would. A mixed grill. Chicken shish, lamb shish, chicken wings, lamb kofte, liver and chicken kofte all on a bed of flavoured rice. What a meal we had. The meat was cooked perfectly on top of the charcoal, the charred bits, the smokiness and the crisp bites of tender meat all went down so easily. Succulent, juicy and so delicious, the food tasted really fresh and not oily or fatty at all. We were close to finishing the food and I didn't feel bloated or completely stuffed, instead I was in a comfortable happy place.
... Ten minutes later after we had finished it all, I was absolutely stuffed. All this for under £20 each and with drinks. The only downer here was that we couldn't pay by card. We had to walk five minutes down the road to get cash. If they accepted card it would have been even better.
Great food, good catch up and good value.
Lesson here, never judge a book by its cover and Dalston has a lot of Turkish restaurants.
Food recommendations are such tricky subjects. Who do you trust and in turn do you trust yourself to recommend a place to a friend? This week I was told about a really good place to go too and I went, I ate and I was disappointed.
Recommending a restaurant or any place to someone heaps a lot of pressure on you. At times it also can lead to people judging you and what you deem as good quality. If anyone now says “Shayan, where shall I go to eat”, a panic sets in. I then start to think about places I like, if I think that person will like it and finally, whether it reflects well on me. WOW, that is a lot to think about from one simple question.
Discussing this issue with a friend the other night led me to believe that recommendations are solely based on personal experiences at that given time. If you have been two or three times then you can give a more constructive and convincing recommendation. Otherwise the one time experience will provide your friend, family, acquaintance or colleague with a risky 50–50 chance of liking your choice or you being seen as someone with poor taste.
The example is this- if my first experience of a restaurant was amazing and had unbelievable service etc, I would recommend it. However, this amazing place could unfortunately falter for your friend and not live up to the hype. Therefore, immediately the restaurant and your recommendation has disappointed and can then lead to a poor reflection on you. Consequently, said friend will no longer ask you for your advice and your status as a #foodie is ruined. Turn this on its head and you have suggested a friend not to go based on a bad experience. What do you then think of them if they loved it?
Now I am getting confused. The best thing would be to not give recommendations and let people judge for themselves. Or what I think is best, is to get many different perspectives. Thankfully with the Internet I can check out many reviews, from the average Joes, critiques, so-called foodies and food connoisseurs. My ‘recommendation’ is to look at the positive and negative reviews in order to get a full and holistic understanding of the venue or restaurant you wish to go to. This way, you can be excited by the positive aspects which you have heard or read about and you can be cautious about any negative aspects.
Listen to your friends, listen to the people and just try it out. If a restaurant has intrigued you enough to ask, just go and try it out. From here, before you recommend a restaurant, go at least twice in order to give a more solid base for a recommendation and makes you a reliable source in the future.
Now, where shall I eat tonight?
During a long journey home, food soon became the subject of discussion with Laura. What shall we have and where shall we go? The conversation immediately went to a focus on Pasta. Something quite light but tasty, delicate but filling and most importantly somewhere close by.
We had been suggested one restaurant but it was closed so we went to where we know and thankfully it was open. We have been to Il Piccolo Diavolo before and it had served us well with good pizza. Now a new test, Pasta.
We were greeted by a very friendly and kind waitress who got us both excited about what was coming up. The menu read well as did the specials board and after some deliberation we chose what we wanted.
The Bruscheta made in sud was a heap of Mediterranean delicacies on top of crusty bread. The mozzarella, rocket, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and the specialty of pesto was amazing. The different flavours and the crunch of the bread made it awesome. This is a dish that you could definitely order alone and you would be happy having devoured it.
For the main, Laura and I both decided to have Ravioli in a creamy sauce. One had mushroom and butternut squash in and the other was with cheeseIl and mushroom. Both were sprinkled with smoked ham, rocket and Parmesan. The creamy sauce which covered the ravioli was rich and filling and seasoned well made sure that i had finished it all off, in spite of my big lunch earlier.
The explanations and critiques of the food will remain there. The local food in Crouch Hill, Crouch End and Stroud Green have treated Laura and I very well. We have lived here just over a year and thankfully there are sill a few more places to try. In terms of variety, quality, value and effort from all the restaurants local to me i would give it a solid grade of B+.
Il Piccolo Diavolo is a case in point and provides good service, good food and is good value.
Another week and another chance to interview a good friend.
i have been lucky enough to know Ayman for over 10 years and now he is working hard and helping people in the world. Ayman has teamed up with Shay Allie as they seek to inspire people. Their premise is "If you had 10 minutes to share your wisdom on stage, what would you say?"
Inspire'd is the UK's premier stage for leadership talks in 10 minutes. Once a month, they invite speakers to share personal stories that we believe will connect either mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
Time for the Questions with Ayman.
Who is inspired?
Inspire'd is a London based event that hits the sweet spot between drama and comedy. It's like going to the theatre and comedy club at once. Every month we invite 5 speakers to share their last ever 10 minute talk with the world. What they say creates laughter, realisations and sometimes, tears. Think of watching the most impactful talks you've seen on YouTube, live in person, at a beautiful venue in Mayfair with 60-80 of the nicest, most down to earth, accomplished people. That is Inspire'd.
What is your inspiration for doing this?
My biggest inspiration is something close to home - my personal results. I'm a living, breathing example of what investing in yourself can do to your health, relationships, career, finances, lifestyle and personal legend. Taking ownership of all areas of your life, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, sounds sexy and it is, but it also takes dedication, intellectual and emotional investment and deep commitment. I've been on both sides and know that without an inward focus we can drift, follow other people and lose our sense of destiny. I wanted to create a concept and a community where investing in yourself is more fun and real than watching TV, going to the pub or staying in the office.
When do you get the most satisfaction from doing this?
On the night of the event. We run on the 1st Monday of every month and I host the evening along with the one and only Shay Allie. Together we have a lot of fun with our team, guests and speakers. The satisfaction is in feeling the energy in the room being transformed as each speaker takes the stage, where at the end everyone is so in love with themselves, each other and life in general, its beautiful. I also get alot of satisfaction from the feedback we receive which is overwhelmingly positive. My passion is to serve people and it's an honour to be in service in this way.
Where would you like to see inspire'd in five years time?
Whilst it's tempting to franchise the model to other cities, its not easy to recreate the energy for various and obvious reasons. Saying that, we do believe every major city would enjoy and greatly benefit from having Inspire'd, therefore we will soon be open-sourcing the format on our website so others can lead their own event with our blessing.
Ultimately, we see Inspire'd as a unique experience, best tasted in London, that people visit when they are here, whether that's because they feel its the best way to start their month or because they've heard about it from a friend or publication. Sort of like Harrods or Selfridges but less expensive and more valuable!
Why should someone get a life coach and how can people help themselves?
I've had coaches in my life and have also gone through a period without a coach, such as now. In my observations, I would say that it's still not as common to think about hiring a coach here in the UK as it is in other countries. The reasons are many, one of them is cultural, another is seeing it as a cost rather than investment, another is it may seem "unnatural". The truth is our life is made up of three components: What we know, What we know we don't know and What we don't know that we don't know. And actually the first two are the smallest. A coach will help you with your blind spots: What you don't know, you don't know. If you are still following me, you may not need a life coach!
I just want to point out that I am not a life coach and Inspire'd is not affiliated to any life coaches but its true that there are clear benefits of training and investing in yourself and nothing is more personalized than one-to-one coaching.
Which piece of advice has been the most important to you?
Anything I say now is going to sound simplistic without the back story but here goes!
If you have a dream, desire, goal, vision in your mind or in your heart, it has been planted there for a reason. The Universe, God, Holy Spirit, Devine Order, All That Is, whatever you want to call it, has given you the tools and life experiences you need to continue to follow and pursue those dreams, desires, goals, visions. Life is about REALising whats deep inside you. You are the only person that can do that, thats the journey you are on. If you cannot see, feel, touch, taste your deepest desires at the moment think about making some significant lifestyle changes so that your vision becomes clearer. Do that NOW and don't wait. What else do you have to do that's so important?
Thank you so much Ayman. It has been a pleasure as always. I have had a chance to go to an Inspire'd event and you can feel the energy in the room and you definitely will take some golden nuggets from it.
Life is what you make it and make sure you are enjoying it.
Take the good vibes and beInspire'd!