The last time I ate in this building it was the second-worst meal I’ve eaten in Greenwich (even if only by a whisker). It was the godawful Pizza Luna in its final death-days and the food was indescribably bad (though naturally I had a good old go at talking about  the full horrors…)

When it actually died, a couple of weeks after that appalling ‘meal,’ the place seemed to have been closed for good. It must have been shut for at least three years. One thing I had noticed when I’d gone to the horrid loo upstairs was that the place was enormous – and although for a good restaurant, that could have turned it into a large-party venue for groups, for Pizza Luna it was just a wasteland. My heart sank even then – this was ripe fodder for redevelopment.

And indeed that is exactly what happened. I don’t really know what went on behind the scaffolding that was up for absolute yonks, but  sure enough, that large space upstairs has disappeared as a dining space; it’s presumably ‘luxury’ flats now. And still the ground floor restaurant remained boarded up. It did actually get to the point when I began to think it was a shame Pizza Luna had closed, just so we could have had something open in the prime-tourist-spot space (yes, it was closed that long…)

And then things started moving. I noticed the funky chandeliers first, through the cracks in the hoardings. Then they painted the outside red. Something was happening. I asked the guys moving  stuff in,  they didn’t know. Some interesting wallpaper went up, and the Phantom eye, spying through the spaces in the paper covering on the doors, started to get interested…

Helva is a Turkish restaurant. It doesn’t appear to be a chain, not least because the domain name has been registered, but there’s no website yet. It’s a big venture for a one-off and they’ve certainly not stinted on the decor. It’s bright and big, and while I’m a sucker for old-fashioned tablecloths and general plush, the modern trend for bare tables and hard lines works quite well here. There’s a bar with a TV (that I could live without; for me it cheapens the experience of dining, however flat the screen) and mirrored columns. 

I went the second Saturday that it was open. I was out shopping in the market and fancied something light for lunch.

To be honest, I’m not sure Turkish restaurants are very good for ‘something light.’ We were welcomed with a bowl of flatbread slices (which kept filling up) home-made hummus and fat olives. I don’t know if this was an opening offer or if this happens all the time – I’d welcome reports back on this one. 

Of course that’s always a killer because I never allow for freebies when I’m ordering food, and since the food takes a while to prepare, I’m always filled up before I start eating stuff I’m actually paying for. The menu is big, one might  almost think a little too big, but with loads of really interesting-looking dishes. I liked the look of the moussaka, but ended up with the Paticlan (to feed my aubergine obsession) and my pal chose sundry meze dishes. And still the bread sticks and hummus came…

I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I’d only just started shopping and I knew that at some point I’d have to get several bags-worth of fire-gel on the bus  (word to the wise – never get your sister one of those groovy firepots they sell on the market as a Christmas gift, you get saddled for life with buying refills…) so I don’t know what the wine was like. I hope it’s a darn sight better than the house wine at Tas which tastes like – well, not unlike fire-gel, actually. I had a juice; my friend had a diet coke. 

You can’t knock Helva for portion-sizes. My Paticlan was a bit on the runny side, but delicious (not as smoky as I like it, but then I like my aubergine smooooooky.) It came with plenty of salad. The meze worked well, especially the Lamb kofte. We had to tell them to stop bringing the bread. 

Eating anywhere at lunchtime will always be a different experience to the full evening monty, and I do intend to get back there sometime after dark, but on first taste, I like this place. I won’t insult it by even beginning to compare it with its predecessor; this is head, shoulders, waist, thighs and calves above it. Of course, it was very early days when I tried it, clearly trying hard – and it needs keeping an eye on (which will be a hardship, but someone has to do it…) but for the moment I like this place rather a lot. Even though it’s lost its upper floor, it’s still massive – the basement isn’t much smaller than the ground floor, which will make it a good venue for large Christmas groups (not least because the menu is so large it must cover virtually every food-fuss going) 

And the best thing of all – Greenwich seems to be starting – just starting, mind you – to emerge from Scaffolding Hell. The tower at St Alfege’s is emerging, all sparkling and clean, and now that horrid corner where Pizza Luna was is starting to clean itself up (though what the hell is going on where the old fish bar was is anybody’s guess – and what’s going on with the roadworks?)

Maybe we’re going to have our town back at some point after all.

18 Comments to “Helva”

  1. Jon says:

    I have had lunch in this place twice now and it has been excellent both times.So far I have only pigged out on starters but the mains that go past look good.There is some intersting stuff on the menu and a pretty good veggie selection too.
    The bread does keep coming but along with the olives we had a kind of cream cheese instead of hummus.

  2. OldChina says:

    I ate at Helva last week and was generally impressed. Good food and very reasonably priced. In fact we couldn’t finish our meal and the very nice staff gave us doggy bags. My biggest criticism would be that my hummus was a little too smooth and runny for my taste. But everything else was spot on, including the complementary olives and bread.

    All in all, we were impressed and would definitely recommend it to others. Yum.

  3. mary says:

    OK. In my opinion, another string to reenwichs mediocre bow…

  4. Azof kid says:

    i have eaten at Helva twice now and really enjoyed it both times, the food is really fresh and tasty and pretty good prices!…its great to have somewhere decent to eat in Greenwich centre at last… : ) : )

  5. Amit and Louise says:

    We have eaten at Helva 3 times and are planning to dine there again tomorrow. This place is a brilliant gem of a find. Although having said, it’s not really too hard to find as the location in Greenwich is perfect. Both times we’ve eaten there, both my partner and I tried distinct selections. Each dish was simply perfect, from its presentation to its preparation. This place deserves a Zagat rating. I’m sure finding a table here will become increasingly difficult as its popularity spreads.

  6. Sarah says:

    We eat there at lunchtime. The lunch special is very good value and the bread fresh and warm. My only criticism was the slightly too over attentive, slightly pushy staff. I felt a bit hurried when it came to ordering food

  7. Orhan says:

    As a Turkish person from Greenwich, I was very excited about this restaurant, I went there with another Turkish friend and unfortunately, we both were very disappointed with the food. The decor is lovely and the service is generally good but the food is average and not so authentic…Perhaps they just care about capturing the passing traffic which are mainly tourists and it doesn’t matter whether they go back or not…It is a shame because it has every potential to be a great restaurant loved by the locals as well if only the food was better.

  8. Orhan – can you recommend anywhere round here that does really great Turkish food?

  9. gary says:

    i have to go to greenwich because lots of italian relatives of my wife want to see the meridian but the place really is ruined, nasty poncey people as well, the best thing is the tea hut and the naval museum

  10. meena says:

    We felt Helva was really disappointing. The bread is definitely not turkish and the humus was tasteless, I think M&S does it better. Will definitely not go there again.

  11. Selena says:

    I am a regular customer of Helva and can not remember have many times now.
    Every time I brought someone with me try the food and service. Shame that I have not seen this link before that I can recommend this place for more people.
    Last time we have been there with my family was on last Mother’s Day.
    We ate Full menu which offers many starters, main meal and dessert for very cheap price. Especially Enginar as a starter everybody has to try,the parsley salad has a wonderful taste as well. To be honest most of the Turkish place has Mixed Grill but this place -I have not found out the reason- has different and better taste of lamb (kudzu Shish)cubes. It is very interesting this Turkish place even can cook a France dessert very tasteful, creme brûlée is always my recommendation there.
    Moreover, every time I ate different food there and still lots of them I have not tried, the menu they have is huge.

  12. Mehmet says:

    I was trying to make online booking for Helva Restaurant and I have met with this link. It was two weeks ago on Saturday dinner which was the busiest day for the restaurants. Helva was busy too and I had to wait around 5 min. for table. Surprisingly I had a really nice meal there, it was over my expectation. Any Turkish restaurant can be identifyied by their casserole, therefore I have ordered lamb casserole.I am a Turkish cuisine chef already and congratulating them. Thanks.

    Gercekten güzel bir restaurant, güzel bir yemekti. Teşekkürler.

  13. CMC says:

    Finally made it down here a couple of weeks ago – it’s certainly seen a complete transformation since the dark days of Pizza Luna. They’ve spent a few quid on it, nice flooring, new furniture, a big open kitchen. Service was generally good – starters were nothing special. A few people have mentioned the poor hoummus – definitely not what you’d expect from a Turkish restaurant, very runny and tasteless. Mains were good though – the quality of their meat was excellent, soe of us had chicken and some lamb but everyone commented on this.

    We would probably go back but there are definitely touches that they really need to improve on – the restaurant manager is all sweetness and light when trying to get you in the door but as soon as you come in she turns it off and pretty much ignores you. You also probably wouldn’t want to be sat downstairs where the toilets are. Overall – C+, but light years ahead of Pizza Luna.

  14. Ash says:

    The fact that they forced a service charge upon me was insulting. I’ll tip the waiter what I think it’s fair. How dare you help yourself to my money.

  15. Gingerman says:

    Just got back from a very pleasant meal here. Food and service both very good, and for the price I’d say it’s one of the best restaurants in Greenwich (admittedly the competition is slight). Being greedy we had a selection of three starters, and we didn’t have any issue with the houmous as other posters have, so perhaps they have improved the recipe. Both of us had simple casseroles for the main which were very nicely done, the meat was cooked beautifully and they weren’t over seasoned. Turkish “desert” selection for pudding also good.

    I’d say we’re pretty picky customers but we will definitely be going back.

  16. Kate says:

    Well done!! Congratulating for cleaning I was very impressed.Despite of being very busy on Tuesday dinner me and my friend found that Helva has nice food, good service and reasonable price. Recommended especially for family parties.

  17. Chrissy says:

    Tried Helva for the first time tonight & Won’t be going back. Service was slow and they forgot one of the starters. Mains were bland and the seafood I ordered was so overdone I nearly choked on it. Staff were so unattentive we left after 40 minutes of waiting for the desert menu. When we did settle the bill the waiter moaned it was 10 pence short – even though the service charge was included and we had already reluctantly paid up. On the plus side the decor was nice.

  18. MCW says:

    I went to helva last night and it was diabolical. Had to wait 20 minutes s to order, then once we ordered it was another 20 minutes before the waiter came back to tell us that he hadn’t taken our order down and we would need to order again, another 20 minutes then guess what? The waiter returned to tell us that ‘a colleague’ had messed up and failed to put our order through! So we ordered yet again. By the time we actually got some food it was nearly 10pm and we had arrived at around 8.30. The food was pretty rubbish too actually so we barely finished and went up to the counter to pay the bill (no point in waiting another hour to get pur bill) I was expecting the lady behind the counter to show at least a modicum of awareness that we had been very poorly treated and give us a discount but the remorse never came. Instead we were faced with a stony glare while she begrudgingly admitted that she would take the ‘service charge’ off! Couldn’t believe the cheek! Don’t go to HELLva, poor food, rude staff….no wonder it’s empty most nights!