Havin a fantastic lunch at new Turkish restaurant

Havin in St Albans High Street.

Havin in St Albans High Street. - Credit: Matt Adams

We have had some lovely Turkish restaurants open recently, and if you are craving a taste of the Mediterranean, with good salads and grilled meat and fish, you have plenty of choice. I chose Havin, due mostly to its wonderful location right opposite the clock tower in St Albans.

On a warm, sunny day, we chose a table outside on the pavement, taking advantage of the pedestrianisation of High Street. Music from a stall, and people strolling by, gave the place quite a holiday vibe.

Havin opened right at the start of lockdown, so had to pivot into a takeaway, but it clearly a restaurant that is designed to welcome people inside.

The interior is opulent, with ornate light fittings and fabrics sourced from Istanbul. The front opens out, so even those sitting inside had the outside atmosphere (and good ventilation if that worries you).

Havin’s Kitchen was opened by husband and wife team, Nevin and Mahmut, who originate from Diyarbakir in South East Turkey.

Big family gatherings is very much their ethos, and the menu lends itself to sharing starters and perhaps some of the main courses too. You will find plenty of Turkish classics on the menu – it is definitely more old-school, than say,
nearby Tabure.

Grilled meats are the focus of the menu, but there are some interesting vegetarian options – I wasn’t expecting to see moussaka on the menu, but apparently it is originally from Turkey, although we tend to associate it with Greece.

I love Turkish starters, and we decided to share a beetroot dip generously scattered with walnuts. This was very more-ish, scooped up with the delicious freshly baked breads. We also chose a babaganoush which was full of smoky flavour.

Baba and beetroot at Havin.

Baba and beetroot at Havin. - Credit: Becky Alexander

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Main courses include kleftiko served with mashed potato and guvek chicken or lamb, which is served in a clay pot, with aubergine, sundried pepper paste and Baharat.

The kebab menu features shish kebabs and also minced lamb or chicken. My friend enjoyed the chicken shish with rice and salad; the chicken was well marinated and cooked properly, so still juicy but with delicious charred grilled edges.

The rice, perhaps, could have been a bit more interesting. Vegetarian mains included mantar dolma, an oven-baked flat mushroom filled with spinach, leek, tomatoes, onions, mixed peppers and topped with halloumi cheese.

I chose the falafel, which were clearly home-made, with thick, crunchy edges and soft fluffy insides. At £14 for the usual main course, I think this is pretty expensive, particularly locally, when we have so much choice for Turkish food.

As we were there at lunchtime, we were able to order from the midweek deal, which is £12.90 for two courses and £14.90 for three, and I felt that was reasonable value.

There is a short pudding menu, including baklava and cheesecake. You can get proper Turkish coffee and we enjoyed our fresh mint teas, with plenty of leaves.

They have a long cocktail menu so do take a look at that if you book for an evening. The Swinging Sultan, made with vodka, pomegranate juice, raki and fresh lime sounds delicious.

Efes Turkish beer is on the menu in both draft and bottles, and there is a good, short wine  list including a choice of wine from Turkey, such as a merlot from the Manisa region, and a Karya Kalecik Karasi rose. Prices are fairly high for St Albans, with bottles starting at £20.

I think visitors to the city would be perfectly happy to have dinner at Havin, especially for the location and pretty views. Locals might find it a little on the expensive side. Open every day, 11am-10pm. You can also order delivery and takeaway.