Turkey on menu every day
31 December 2008
KEBABS may seem an unlikely attraction but they are drawing visitors in their droves to one thriving Turkish community.
And it is not just kebabs bringing fame to this bustling neighbourhood in the heart of Harringay. Its streets are dotted with traditional bakeries and restaurants.
What we all know as Green Lanes – a unassuming stretch of road running through the borough – is fast claiming the title of “Little Turkey” for the number of family-run businesses.
And if plans for a Harringay Food Festival get the go-ahead next September the area looks set to firmly make its mark on the cultural map.
The world-renowned kebabs in question belong to Ciger Kebabs, run by Ahmet Ustunsurmeli who is also owner of the equally successful Antepliler Restaurant and Patisserie.
He said: “Our kebabs are unique because we make them from liver, heart and kidney – the first time it has been done in Europe. And we sell our cakes to Europe, Australia and India. It’s our little bit of Turkey right here in Haringey.”
Shefik Mehmet, chairman of the Harringay Traders’ Association and owner of Cheriee Hair Salon in Green Lanes, claims the last four or five years has seen the area really flourish.
“There is a very active culture in Green Lanes now,” he says. “Turkish people are friendly and it shows. We get hundreds of people from all cultures coming in from different boroughs and outside of London to shop and eat.
“And for the Turkish people, they often bump into people they knew from back home.”
Kristina Ibrahimova, who works in Antepliler Patisserie, adds: “You can find everything in Turkish culture on this street – food, sweets, dresses, hairdressers and jewellers. People are so used to this that if you need something Turkish you have to come to Haringey. Most Turkish people call it ‘Little Turkey’.”
But the birth of this community when a handful of refugees arrived more than 20 years ago was not without its teething problems.
Mr Mehmet says the early 1990s saw tensions between rival gangs run high, and fighting often spilled on to the streets. He said: “There was a problem settling, but since then energy has been spent cleaning up the area. Now we talk about issues that come up and we have money now to wipe out a lot of the problems.”
This “clean up” involved the closure of many men’s social clubs, which were seen as a hotbed for problems, and now the few remaining clubs are well-run.
“We also have better lighting. We are planting more trees and the area generally has been given a facelift,” he adds.
There is even talk of changing the name of the ward to Haringey Village, to fit this revitalised image of Green Lanes.
One of the biggest draws to the area is the huge Yasar Halim supermarket, which has been selling all manner of exotic fruits and home-made breads for 27 years.
The aisles are packed with customers of all nationalities lured in by the smells of freshly baked Cypriot bread, sweet Baklava or the Lahmacun “pizzas”.
Manager Birsen Tuna says: “Modern bakeries are not open plan like this and you have to order at the till instead of getting close to the food. It’s much more tempting like this.”
Resident Hugh Flouch, of Hewitt Road, on the Harringay Ladder, said: “Green Lanes is more multi-cultural than the rest of the borough. You drive down that road and you think you’re in Turkey, but you go down one of the side streets and it’s completely different.”
He added: “It seems that in other places traders are facing a really tough time but Harringay doesn’t seem to be suffering the same problems.”
And if calls are answered for a Harringay Food Festival – fiercely supported by Mr Mehmet – the area looks set to firmly cement its reputation across London in time for the 2012 Olympics.