Alistair Houghton visits the new Elif restaurant in Childwall Fiveways
FOR too long now, the first Elif in Lark Lane has been my epitome of an “I’ve always wanted to go there” restaurant.
You know the idea – one of those places you often walk past, and hear people raving about, so you find yourself saying “I’ve always wanted to go there”. But you never do.
Elif, the Turkish barbecue restaurant, is one of Lark Lane’s most popular eateries. Many people have told me how good it is, while the glorious smell of grilling has always grabbed my attention.
Once – and this was torture– I popped in with an interviewee while he picked up his takeaway. The intoxicating aroma of grilled meat and the happy diners made me tempted to raid the grill myself, if the restaurant itself hadn’t been full to bursting point.
I still haven’t been to Elif in Lark Lane. But I feel I can now vouch for its grilled goodness as Elif has opened an outpost in Childwall Fiveways.
That junction has an altogether different feel to Lark Lane. Where the latter is narrow and bustling with people, the former is a whirlingly busy road junction, a little intimidating for travelling pedestrians, with little of Lark Lane’s bohemian flavour.
Yet Elif has successfully transferred its atmosphere to its spin-off venue.
Like its sister, the Childwall restaurant is an open, airy room, with windows so tall that you almost feel you’re eating outdoors.
But it’s not about the room. It’s about the grill. And what a grill.
It’s a brick-built monster, with its grillmaster busy all night long whipping skewers of meat and veg on and off the white-hot coals.
The most dominant feature isn’t the grill itself, but the hood – a huge ceiling-mounted silver beast sucking up all the smoke.
It’s quite a spectacle. I sat facing a huge mirror on one wall and though I couldn’t spot the grill itself, I could see a tower of white smoke, a perpetual spiral of flavourful cloud snaking its way up to the hood, a sign that the grill master’s pace never lets up and that the grilling never stops.
The grill has clearly become a popular attraction in the months since Elif Childwall opened. We visited on a Tuesday evening, without booking ahead, and found it bustling and almost full. There were couples old and young, groups of friends, and even families, all tucking in to delicious- looking feasts of grilled meat and veg.
M and I were led to our table in the middle of the restaurant – still a light and airy spot thanks to those huge windows – and perused the menu.
As a first-time visitor, it was hard to choose. Thankfully, Elif offers a Karisik mixed grill platter just for indecisive diners like me – the waiter smiled knowingly as I ordered.