Morning lectures, lunchtime, a rare large gap in the timetable, evening clinic at 5. A quick glance at my restaurant map for somewhere local and unvisited, and a craving for Turkish led us to Qasida by Aldgate East, a quick 10 minute walk from the Royal London. Though err…since we had travelcards we took the bus anyway. (Saving energy = Calorie Surplus = Muscle Growth. Stick around boys, you’ll get ripped with me.) Sadly however, the only thing that was satisfied was my sense of disappointment. All the meat here is halal.
I ordered the Iskender, a baseline dish for any Turkish restaurant, whilst my friend ordered the Lamb Shish, and to finish off our meal – Sutlac for dessert.
At first glance, the Iskender that arrived looked more or less like any decent Iskender, but alas, looks can be deceiving. From experience, I can tell you that there are two types of Turkish restaurant: very good or very bad. Rarely will you find one that sits in the middle ground. Turkish food is very hit and miss, and sadly this occasion was a miss.
The tomato sauce was thin and runny in consistency and though not bland, the flavours that were present ultimately lacked any significant strength. The meat shawarma underneath was plentiful but rather chewy. On closer inspection I could see that the majority of the “meat” pieces were made up almost entirely of fat. It was essentially a mixed shawarma of lamb and lamb fat – and not the good kind of fat. Tough and flavourless. Needless to say, this wasn’t impressive, nor pleasant to eat.
The yoghurt too was either of a low quality or was no longer fresh. It was a little watery and broken, and lacked a smooth and thick consistency, evident of a pot of yoghurt that had been open for a good few days. Though this didn’t bother me too much. Had the sauce had a better consistency and stronger flavour, I probably would have overlooked it. The bread within the dish meanwhile, was soft and moist, but given the lacklustre nature of the sauce and the yoghurt, it didn’t really add anything to the dish, other than it’s texture. Whilst the Iskender was not entirely unedible, it was definitely sub-standard and in no way satisfying to eat.
I also sampled my friend’s lamb Shish, which was quite dry and overcooked, though this is a common finding at many Turkish restaurants.
Next came the Sutlac, which was served cold with ice cream. Sutlac is essentially a Turkish rice pudding. This particular Sutlac had a fairly thick skin with all the soft pudding contained within. It was moderately sweet and creamy, with a pleasant hint of cinnamon that seeped through with each bite. The ice cream however was still frozen in the middle and could’ve done with some thawing. It wasn’t particularly spectacular ice cream either, almost definitely being of a cheap supermarket-brand tub. It’s not something I look down on in any particular snobby way, but if you’re charging £6 for a dessert, you should be using mid-range components at the very least. To be honest I felt the Sutlac could hold its own ground without the ice cream anyway.
Overall, it was an unsatisfying and disappointing meal. The Sutlac was a lot better than the Iskender, but even so, it was pretty average. I left with a lack of satisfaction in my stomach and a bad aftertaste in my mouth that even my afternoon coffee couldn’t rectify.
Value for Money: 0.5/5
My Iskender cost £14, and the Sutlac £6. Even for a good Iskender, £14 in Whitechapel/Aldgate East for a fairly medium-sized portion is kind of pushing it. Add the weak sauce, the low quality meat and yoghurt and the lack of satisfaction, and I think you’d just be throwing your money down the sink for no good reason at Qasida. The Sutlac wasn’t priced too unreasonably, but it too was pushing it, given that it was fairly average. Higher quality ingredients/components and a little more effort is much needed before I’d recommend anyone spend their money here.
Staff are polite, but service isn’t warm or particularly friendly. You don’t feel like the staff care whether you’re there or not. More or less an “Eat your food and get out” affair. Though that sounds like a warm and loving get-together for my family’s standards.
Qasida looks as though it used to be quite attractive once upon a time. The decor consists of wooden floors and dark wooden panelling, off-white walls and an assortment of wooden and faux-leather seating. Generally, the place looks a little past it’s prime, tired and worn out, and a little sprucing up could do wonders. A bit like my face.
It’s located a few minutes away from the Whitechapel Road exit of Aldgate East station, near the Whitechapel Gallery. Parking nearby is both possible and hard to find.
I think a combination of the tired decor and lack of warmth from the staff contributed to a fairly absent atmosphere at Qasida. There was no real buzz or vibrancy, but you can dine with your companions in quiet privacy.
Overall, Qasida was a highly disappointing venture, and shows just how unreliable Google reviews can be sometimes. (That’s a hint, stick around with me). There are many great Turkish restaurants in London, and this, sadly, does not appear to be one of them. But of course, I could have had a one-off bad experience, so you may still want to give this place a try and decide for yourself – at your own risk. For me however, it was my first and last visit to Qasida.
96 Whitechapel High Street,
London E1 7RA
Telephone:020 7247 7086