Turul Project is a new Hungarian restaurant, wine bar, and deli that has opened by Turnpike Lane station in North London. We ambled down to take a look and see what this multi-service venue had to offer.
We’re not ashamed to admit that our knowledge of Hungarian cuisine is limited at best – our immediate point of reference is Gulyás (goulash) and if we stretch our memory a bit we’re pretty sure there’s a chicken paprika dish that is not entirely dissimilar to Chicken à la King. We’ve had some stunning wines from the country but would be hard-pressed to recall the grapes involved. So, suffice to say, we walk into Turul Project pretty much blind, but certainly intrigued.
Turul Project – who, what, where & why?
Founded by István Ruska, Turul Project was born out of a desire to showcase Hungarian cuisine within a modern fine dining setting. Starting life as a series of supper clubs and pop-ups, it has now found its permanent home in Turnpike Lane.
Situated in a 1930s Art Deco building seconds from the station, it’s a convenient, albeit slightly odd location, with the back end of the restaurant looking out over the less-than picturesque bus station. Whilst a bit of an oddity, we can’t fault it for people watching, and if you’re not as nosey as us, the friendliness of staff along with the objet d’art that line the walls are more than enough to hold the interest. The restaurant is bright and open with a long counter that serves as both deli counter and kitchen running through the middle. Green wooden panelling contrasts pleasantly with white-wash walls and slate grey flooring, with industrial string lighting down dropping over wooden tables.
The restaurant itself is led by Head Chef Levente Koppány from Budapest. Winner of 2020’s San Pellegrino Young Chef for the Central Europe Region, Levente was sous chef at Salon Restaurant and New York Cafe in Budapest, having previously spent a stint in London restaurants Salt House and Pied à Terre. With a focus on sustainability, Levente aims to combine his passion for authentic Hungarian produce and ethically sourcing ingredients with technical skill and creative flair.
Food and Wine
We take our seat and take a gander at the à la carte menu. By the looks of dishes on offer, we’re not expecting hearty stews or grandma portions, but more a contemporary fine dining offering, and eagerly select our starters, before enlisting the help of Turul Project’s exceptionally knowledgeable and engaging Manager, Ava, who helps us choose pairing wines.
She suggests a sparkling Tokaj Nobilis Organic (£8.10) to go with the Fermented Cucumber Veloute Smoked Trout, Dill Cream, Caviar (£12), and the Dobosi “Nivegy-Volgy” Olaszrizling 2019 (£5.80) as the partner for the Goose Liver “Tokaji Aszù” Brioche, Granny Smith, Cabbage (£12). The first wine is bright and fresh with aromas of green apple, white peach, and quince, translating onto the palate with salivating acidity and a crisp, dry finish that perfectly whets the appetite and pairs well with the light and summery fish dish. Here, the fermented cucumber dances with the creamy dill sauce, whilst the trout’s light smokiness and oily texture completes the serve.
The goose liver is rich but still light and mousse-y; it’s sweet and moreish with the warm, crispy brioche providing a nice base. Jellies of fruit add a tartness to the dish as well as adding textural play that prevents the starter from getting too heavy. The wine pairing is perfect, with the palate benefitting from the coating pâté to culminate in a bolstered creaminess, with a gentle bitterness cutting through and keeping the rich flavours in check.
Impressed by our starters and especially our wines, we happily put ourselves in Ava’s capable hands regarding the next drinks, and are not disappointed. Frittmann Kadarka 2018 (£5.20) has a musky nose of sandalwood and oregano, followed by a thicker than expected mouthfeel bursting with blackcurrant Tunes (not in a bad way) and prune juice. It’s a characterful wine, similar in style to some slightly heftier Pinot Noirs. Bolyki Bikaver 2018 (£6.60) is even more up our street with a deep bouquet of dark fruits, acai berries, rooibos, dried herbs, and spices. Medium-bodied with pleasant notes of dark red cherry stones, ripe black cherries, tart red cherries, blackcurrant, and concentrated Ribena or redcurrant cordial, it’s a gorgeous drop!
Our mains of Beef Cheek, Pomme Puree, Lovage, Garlic (£18) and Monkfish “Paprikas”, Pasta, Curd Cheese, Sour Cream (£22) arrive, and we get stuck in. The cheek is tougher than expected but rich in flavour once in – although a different knife would have been much appreciated. Soft mash with caramelised shallots add sweetness, with thin crisps of fried garlic working with the meaty depth of this heavy dish. The jus is divine but the robust flavour combinations mean that we struggle to finish our portion, getting consumed by the richness on offer quite early on. The monkfish itself is well-cooked however the plate as a whole is sadly unsuccessful. The “pasta” is essentially a layered lasagne but without anything of flavour in between. The overarching taste is of egg and it is instantly clear that something has gone a bit array in the execution of this dish.
As we look around, we notice a sizeable discrepancy in the size of our fellow diners’ meals, with two tables flanking us with the same orders sporting wildly different portionings of each dish. Whilst this may sound a tad petty to mention, it does speak to our overall feeling that there is some tweaking to do before Turul Project can fully compete on the modern fine dining scene. This thought only solidifies as we approach dessert, where the Walnut Dumpling, Vanilla, Walnut Ice Cream (£9) is floury and gritty, making us think that the dough could have done with more kneading or resting time. The vanilla custard that covers it is also excessively sweet and the whole thing just doesn’t quite work.
That being said, the dessert wines are astounding. We sample three: a floral and fragrant gem with juicy peaches and apricots; a sweet-tart sipper with a gentle dryness and nutty quality, as well as notes of apricot danish and almonds; and a final rich and unctuous stunner with moreish sultana and extraordinary body.
Our visit to Turul Project was a bit of a mixed bag but one full of interest and new experiences. The dishes weren’t all there yet, but we’re sure that such elements will be tightened up as the team settles into its new location. What we can 100% recommend is that everyone who enjoys wine goes to Turul Project for the exceptional bottlings on offer – many of which have never before been seen in the UK. For us, this is the perfect venue for a wine, cheese, and charcuterie night with good friends and good conversation. If you get a chance to make it down but are unsure of what to choose off the wine list, the ever-helpful staff will be happy to assist, and – from what we’ve tasted – you won’t be disappointed.
Turul Project, 1 Turnpike Parade, London, N15 3LA