WHEN our youngest was at university he regaled us with tales of late night drinking rounded off with a kebab. Intrigued, his mum and I tried it once on a weekend in York.
The remains of the greasy article finished up in the River Ouse.
The kebab might be a fast food favourite but it doesn’t do much for Turkey’s reputation. Think of that country and you think kebab. Think kebab and who comes to mind but Harry Enfield’s kebab shop owner Stavros, even if he was Greek not Turkish?
And, listen peeps, with meat being the price it is, it is not as big a part of Turkish cuisine as we might imagine.
So is it possible to go for a Turkish without a kebab?
We set out to discover we could do this very well when we went for a meal at Sheffield’s latest Turkish restaurant, Turkuaz, on London Road.
It does sell kebabs but the word is used only once on its menu. It prefers to call them skewers.
Finding Turkuaz could be a bit of an initiative test. It’s not at street level but on the first floor, above the Ozmen supermarket, and as I write the signage chiefly calls it the London Road Club.
That is a bar with snooker tables, chiefly but not exclusively for Turkish people, at the rear of the restaurant.
This is not to be confused with the London Club restaurant in the city centre, of which the London Road Club is blissfully unaware.
We find it through an ironwork archway by the side of the supermarket and climb several flights of stairs to find a smart, spacious restaurant, done out in red and white in what was a former gym.
It may seat around 80 but we were the only customers for a good hour or so before a party of four arrive. “People don’t know about us yet,” said manager Sunny Tunc.
They do in Doncaster. Turkuaz (which means turquoise in Turkish) is an offshoot of that town’s restaurant which, according to TripAdvisor is the most popular eaterie in Doncaster.
Sunny, its manager who has moved to Sheffield to oversee it for boss Huseyin Esendemir, brought his laptop to the table to show us.
There has been an explosion of Turkish (and Persian) restaurants along London Road and Abbeydale Road recently, which has also seen Vietnamese eateries joining the Chinese, Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Italian and Japanese places already there, as well as continental supermarkets.
This bit seems to be the Turkish end. From our window we can see the Istanbul hair salon.
The menu is pretty much what you might expect, a selection of hot and cold mezzes, then the kebabs (sorry, skewers), cooked over a charcoal fire, a range of traditional Turkish dishes, chargrilled fish and pide, those Turkish pizzas, as well as a veggie dishes.
There’s a wine list with a couple of Turkish bottles but we settle instead for two glasses of Efes beer (£ 2.80 each ).
The way to tackle the starters is to order a combination of either hot or cold at £9.90 for two.
We get four small crispy borek, which are filo ‘samosas’ filled with feta and parsley; tender, fresh kalamari with an excellent wispy batter, grilled hellim (haloumi), that squeaky cheese; and grilled slices of Turkey’s answer to the sausage, sucuk.
The flavourings in the sausage are cumin and sumac, a tangy, lemony spice.
The starters came with a variety of dips, including a sparkling chilli one, tamed for British tastes, said Sunny, and a basket of fresh doughy bread.
I’ve decided to go for the chargrilled fish. They do sea bream and sea bass for a tenner each and, discovering they’ve come from Mann’s on Sharrowvale Road, I know it’s going to be fresh.
The sea bream was as pretty as a picture. It was covered with slices of lemon and garnished by a cucumber ‘vase’ filled with olives and a tomato ‘rose’ with another olive.
After complaining about a lack of garnish in another restaurant recently I got it in spades.
The bream, served whole, was magnificent, with a crisp and salt skin and firm, succulent white flesh. Bream is reckoned to be a poor man’s bass, certainly a more parsimonious buyer’s fish, but this was no second-rater in taste.
It came with one of those juicy Turkish salads and, as I was unsure whether I would have enough, I ordered a portion of rice. It’s normally £1.50 but they didn’t charge me.
My wife had Iskender (£10.90), named in honour of Alexander the Great who duffed them up rather badly around 333BC.
The Turks eke out the meat by baking chicken (or minced lamb) in a tomato sauce and serve it over cubed bread (you get a lot of bread with Turkish meals). She liked it but I thought it a little bland.
We had to have puddings: kunefe, shredded filo baked over sweetened mozzarella, and rice pudding, sutlac, which is a favourite of mine, served cold. I think the flavourings included orange water.
We may have had the restaurant chiefly to ourselves but with the tasty food, Sonny’s pleasant, informative service and a very reasonable bill – £42.90 with drinks – we reckoned it was a great night out.
Even better, belly dancing is promised.
The Dawes Verdict
First Floor, 178-184 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LT.
Tel: 0114 258 2255.
Open all week noon-late. Licensed. Music. Credit cards. Vegetarian dishes. No disabled access. Street parking.