There is a similarity between a restaurant menu and whisky. If everything on a menu is from one country (or even better one region) – like a single malt is – you know your meal will probably be passable or better. If, instead, you see a menu and it draws “influences” from 43 different cultures and cuisines you know you are in trouble. As interesting as a Peruvian fish and ceviche based dish in the style of an Ethiopian stew with Californian-eseque vegetables might be it will also be a godforsaken mess. However, sometimes fusion works (think of good Australian cuisine) and you can be as happily drunk on food as you might be with a good blended whisky.
So to (via Peru and Scotch whisky) Iskele on Whitecross Street. I am not quite sure how we ended up here. As is apparent I am a disgraceful restaurant snob; albeit a wide minded one. I am as happy going to Momofuku Ko or some squalid Mexican eateries on the baseball fields down in Red Hook in Brooklyn. Both are authentic, both are the equivalent of good whiskies (though Momofuku Ko is definitely a blend) and both deliver. Iskele is not that. Iskele is a multi menu muddle. Iskele is see-through plastic table covers over tasled tablecloths. Iskele is being offered a free shot at the end of the meal and having to shake the hand of every waiter of the restaurant when you leave.
That said, I still like it. We went on a Friday night. It was lightly humming. The service was over eager. The food was edible and in its good moments even enjoyable. It was easy, it was local.
And the price, £10 a head including alcohol. And if you do go please please pretend it is your birthday as then you get to experience a sound system they apparently borrowed from Fabric and intense Mormon like clapping as they bring out the cake.
- Price – £10 a head
- 179-181 Whitecross Street, London, EC1Y 8QP