Ever since I moved to Hillsborough, I’ve always been struck by how busy their restaurant there is – whether it’s a Wednesday or a Saturday night, the place is always packed – a promising sign that the food is as good as it smells when you’re walking past and that distinctive charcoal odour hits you in the face.
Run by husband and wife Kirstie and Enver who are working when my boyfriend and I visit, the Hillsborough site does about 120 covers on a busy night; while the couple’s smaller Handsworth Road operation tends to do about 60 seated covers – but far more takeaways.
The Hillsborough restaurant hopes to open it’s second on-site kitchen for takeaways from Wednesday, May 25 – so in the meantime we settle for eating the food in the restaurant itself.
While I’ve never been to Turkey, less than a week ago I’d visited Berlin – the German capital has a large Turkish population, with doner kebab stalls on every corner and a Turkish bakery that is open 24 hours, serving sweet treats to workmen and clubbers as they stumble out into daylight.
Having been impressed by the Turkish food I ate on a food tour there, I was eager to try more dishes back on home turf and in doing so, hoped to keep the post-holiday blues away for a while longer.
Having visited Enver’s once before and knowing how generous the portions are, my boyfriend and I opted for a starter to share: Sigara Borek looks like a spring roll – or as the name suggests, a cigar – but it’s actually a crispy pastry parcel filled with creamy feta cheese and a parsley filling.
This delicious savoury pastry is hard not to like – just make sure you don’t bite into it when it’s piping hot or you’ll burn your mouth!
For our mains we opted for two of the dishes that helped the couple triumph in the BBC Two programme, Britain’s Top Takeaway, and we weren’t disappointed.
I had the Imam Bayildi, which is a vegetarian dish consisting of a whole roasted aubergine filled with tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic, topped with melted cheese.
The aubergine was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and paired well with the accompanying spiced bulgur wheat, perfectly domed on my plate.
The springy cheese-topped bread that came on the side was perfect for mopping up every last drop of the sauce, while the side salad of rocket, sweetcorn, pomegranate, potato and grapes was a refreshing palate cleanser.
My partner opted for the Beyti – an Adana kebab wrapped in lavas bread, grilled with garlic butter, and topped with homemade tomato sauce.
As well as the bulgur wheat and side salad, this was served with Haydari – a delicious garlic yoghurt with dill. While not something my partner would usually order – opting instead for the more familiar shish kebab –he was impressed by the dish, although distinctively unimpressed when I asked for a bite.
The Adana kebab is Enver’s version of the classic minced lamb kofte kebab, and was perfectly seasoned with the charcoal technique giving each mouthful plenty of depth.
We washed these delicious dishes down with Efes Draft, a Turkish beer recommended by our friendly waitress Sharna, who like Enver himself moved to the UK from Turkey.
It’s Enver’s dream to split his time between Turkey and the UK for six months at a time, but his partner Kirstie suggests this might not be on the immediate horizon, with the couple having 10 and 5-year-old boys at school here in the city.
Although we definitely didn't need a dessert, we chose to bask a while longer in the familial warmth of the family-run restaurant; we ordered Baklava, which can sometimes be too sickly, but Enver’s is the perfect balance. It consists of filo pastry layers drenched in syrup, with crushed pistachio nuts on top giving the dessert its vibrant green colour.
Between mouthfuls, we watched as Enver, Kirstie and Sharna acknowledged each guest who came and went with the same, genuine enthusiasm.
While I may be sad I’m no longer sat in sunny Berlin, beer in one hand and kebab in the other, I take great comfort in knowing there’s a place like Enver’s just around the corner from me.
The food certainly merits the restaurant’s new accolade of Britain’s Top Kebab Takeaway, but I’d argue there’s room for a hospitality award for Enver’s in there somewhere too.