There are so many Turkish restaurants in London, I can’t profess to have been to them all, and none I have been to so far live up to the food I had in Istanbul. However this little place in Stoke Newington offers a few really good mezze and is right next to one of the prettiest places in London.
Cilicia was the name of the ancient region of Asia Minor, south of the Anatolian plateau which existed as it’s own entity from Hittite times until the time of the Byzantine Empire. The regions of Mersin, Adana and Osmaniye in Turkey are located in the former region of Cilicia. The restaurant is named after this land of antiquity and professes to serve food that takes inspiration from the different cultures that once formed this Mediterranean land but most especially Turkish.
I can’t say how authentic the food is, but it certainly tastes good!
Tabbouleh – this was very different to the usual tabbouleh you find in restaurants. It had a strong tomato and sweet pepper base – an unusual but very tasty take on the traditional recipe.
The prawns are my favourite thing to eat here. Giant butterfly prawns are stewed in tomato sauce with a number of vegetables and wine. Make sure to order extra bread to mop up all the sauce, it’s that good!
Feta triangles served with cacık – nothing too out of the ordinary, but you can tell they use very fresh ingredients which enhances the flavours.
Finally, we also ordered deep fried halloumi with sweet chili which surprised me by actually being very good! I usually don’t like tampering too much with cheese but the breadcrumbs and sweetness worked nicely.
We also ordered a mix grill of meats which was nice, but nothing special. For the best mixed meat grill, I would recommend Hiba Express by Holborn – a Lebanese restaurant with incredible food!
When I was in Istanbul a couple of months ago I fell in love with ‘Sahlep’ – a hot drink made from powdered mountain orchid root mixed with either milk or water and then flavoured with rose water and cinnamon. I was delighted when I saw sahlep on the menu at Clicia and ordered it straight away! While it was very delicious, it didn’t quite taste the same as the sahlep you buy from the street sellers of Istanbul in the evenings. I later discovered that the wild orchids used in sahlep are now so rare that it is illegal to export the true powder -so I was either drinking black market orchid roots or something unknown!
Nevertheless, Clicia is a fun little cafe to stop by for a bite to eat. I personally recommend combining it with a wander around Abney Park Cemetery. It is the only place I have been to in London which is absolutely silent apart from the occasional chirp of a bird overhead and the whispering of the many leaves.
I usually find cemeteries quite sad and haunting, but Abney Cemetery is incredibly peaceful. The moss covered tombstones that line the path feel like old friends, greeting you as you pass by under the watchful eyes of the hosts of angels. It feels like you have stepped out of London and into their realm. On another path a giant lion slumbers and his form is so lifelike, you find yourself tiptoeing past so as not to wake him. The path forks in two and I was irresistibly drawn to the wilder path, a tunnel that glows green as the light filters through in the leaves. It brought to mind the poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Stepping out of the cemetery and onto the busy London roads felt a bit like waking up from a dream.