At this modern Turkish restaurant in London’s Marylebone, chef Hus Vedat has merged east and west, says Andy Lynes
That well-worn phrase, ‘if you can’t stand the heat’ takes on a whole new meaning in chef Hus Vedat’s impressive open kitchen at Yosma, the 150-cover modern Turkish restaurant recently launched in London’s Marylebone by Levent Büyükuğur and Sanjay Nandi, who formerly ran the Istanbul Doors group in Istanbul. There’s not only a Josper oven reaching temperatures of up to 500°C, but a gas-fired, domed clay oven and a Turkish-style mangal grill too.
Vedat is almost uniquely qualified to head up Yosma’s brigade of 12 chefs and write the meat-heavy, 35-item main menu. He’s not only of Turkish extraction (born in Hackney to Cypriot parents), but worked at Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa restaurant, which boasts a similarly varied array of ovens and grills, and opened the steak-led Caxton Grill at St Ermin’s hotel.
“I know this sounds egotistical but this restaurant is very focused around me. It’s very London and it’s very traditional Istanbul; it’s a mashing of those two worlds,” he says.
Designed by Afroditi Krassa, who is also responsible for Dishoom and Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionist Cafe at Heathrow, Yosma is a contemporary take on a traditional Turkish meyhane or tavern.
“Afroditi understood the speakeasy, monochrome, moody meyhane vibe with an east London edge that I wanted to create,” says Vedat, who claims to have combined meyhane-style dining of cold mezze served with raki (the anise-flavoured spirit that’s popular in Turkey) with a mangal grill for the first time.
“Being a big meat and grill chef, mangal was something I wanted to explore and a meyhane felt very fitting as a social setting for that, so we combined them. It’s an evolution of two Turkish institutions of eating out,” he adds.
Vedat’s sourcing policy is also east meets west, with spices, red pepper and tomato pastes, tahini, pomegranate molasses, Turkish delight and peppers imported from Turkey and everything else coming from the UK.
British lamb plays a pivotal role on the menu and Vedat buys in whole animals from Nathan the Butcher in Bermondsey (topping up with individual cuts from Turner and George in Islington). He uses every part of the shoulder in mangal-grilled kofte kebabs served with steamed potato and muhammara sauce
(£10); best end chops are cooked in the Josper and served with lemon and mint (£11); while neck of lamb turns up in the best-selling ‘manti’ or Turkish dumplings (£7), a colourful dish that Vedat says has become a hit on Instagram.
“We put the scrag and the middle of the neck in the clay oven with mirepoix and lamb stock and braise it at 120°C for 3-5 hours,” he explains. “We separate the meat, pass the stock and reduce it right down and fold that back into the meat. The meat goes into the middle of the dumpling mix and the dough is folded over to make little stars. The dumplings are blanched and served with yogurt, ginger and garlic sauce, dried mint, sumac, pul biber [Aleppo pepper] chilli butter and parsley oil.”
The long menu is broken down into sections headed cold mezze, hot mezze, soup, mangal, clay oven, salads and sides.
“In Turkey, meyhane is generally in the evening, when people go out and eat cold mezze, drink raki and finish with fish. We have 12 cold mezzes including kirmizi biber [coal-roasted peppers, mint, lime zest] and baba ghanoush [coal-roasted aubergine pulp, lemon, garlic and oregano] and we also have whole sea bass, which we finish in the Josper.”
In addition to the main menu, Vedat offers a three-course lunch menu (£15) made up of items drawn from the à la carte, such as hummus and tavuk (chicken breast, charred corn, green pepper, tahini sauce), and a weekend breakfast menu.
At Yosma, Vedat’s ambition is to modernise Turkish cuisine, but he is realistic about how quickly he can push things forward. “Turkish food is even more conservative than Italian cuisine and about 25% of our guests are Turkish. I’ve kept it true to its roots with robust flavours, fire cooking and classic ingredients,” he says. “Once the customers are in, then we can try different things like Armenian-style liver or funky mezze like cured bonito with samphire and beans.”
50 Baker Street, London W1U 7BT