Nano, 140 London Road
IF there's one Turkish dish that everybody knows it's the doner kebab. Strangely, you won't find it on the menu at Sheffield's latest Turkish restaurant, Nano, on London Road.
"The doner kebabs you see here are nothing to do with the proper ones," says co-owner Baran Balaman who owns the business with his cousin, Mehmet Kizilkaya, the chef.
Now Baran speaks with the authority of a man who has run a few kebab shops himself and he says if you want an authentic doner kebab, go to London or, better still, Turkey.
And, if I get his drift, he's not put them on the menu because done the right way - strips of meat cooked on a central spindle instead of the minced up compressed gubbins we're used to - would confuse his customers
Now we'd been watching Rick Stein on the telly wolfing his way around the Med at licence payers expense and he'd finished up in Turkey. My, it did look good.
And as since going to Nano was cheaper than going to Turkey, we went there.
On our night Baran was in Turkey but they made us welcome even if we did have the 55-seater venue more or less to ourselves.
Rick Stein had noted that a lot of dishes he had thought Greek were also claimed by Turkey - from salad with fete to baklava - and the Turks got upset if he mentioned this.
Nana used to be another Turkish restaurant called Marmaris and the decor, to put it politely, looks a bit minimal - lots of bare walls.
"A bit spartan," said my wife then she giggled. "I shouldn't say that, should I?" One of the reasons Baran had gone to Turkey was to get some pictures so they should be on the walls by now.
Mehmet operates from a charcoal grill at one of the restaurant but this little bit of restaurant theatre was not viewable from our table.
"He started working in a restaurant when he was 12, washing the dishes," says Baran.
"We all laughed at him but by the time he was 16 he was chef in a restaurant in Bingol. He amazed everyone."
We started as I imagine just about everyone does, sharing a pleasing mixed mezze (4.50) of dips, the first seven dishes on the menu - humous, tarama without the salata (cods roe), kisir (crushed wheat) and so on, all beautifully presented and tasty.
We also had a dark red grilled Turkish sausage (3.50), as spicy as it looked.
Now you have any kebab here you like as long as it's not doner, perhaps shish, cop, chicken chish, kofte, adana and so on.
My wife had the Chicken Iskender kebab (8.25), which, if you watched Michael Wood a few years ago, will know is the corruption of the name of the Greek conqueror Alexander. So the Turkish aren't always sniffy about the Greeks.
This had been grilled, taken off the skewer and laid on a bed of bread, moistened by a tomato, yoghurt and butter sauce. The chicken was rather good although the pitta was gently dissolving from the sauce and she wasn't totally sure if she enjoyed the texture. Tasted all right to me, though.
I loved my dish Hunkar Begedi (9.50), which translates as Sultan's Delight. This was a very fragrant, slightly sweetish, melt-in-your-mouth lamb stew which, it turns out, is also Baran's favourite. I'm not quite sure whether he appreciated me likening it to a Moroccan stew, though.
This comes with its own aubergine sauce although this is not aubergine as you'll know it. The roasted vegetable has been whisked up into a stiff paste and is piped around the edge of the paste. Fascinating.
Chocolate fudge cake or ice cream in the desserts section didn't seem to strike us as particularly Turkish but sutlac did. This is Turkish rice pudding. Now I am president (and only member) of the Sheffield Rice Pudding Society which seeks out this dish in all its nationalities.
Nano serves it cold and with a skin on - which normally I hate but it worked here - and it's lovely and creamy with, I think, a touch of bay. It costs 3.
Our meal with a couple of beers cost us a very reasonable 36.25. They obviously liked the look of us because they didn't charge for the coffees.
Worth a visit but don't ask them for a doner kebab.
140 London Road, Sheffield. Tel 0114 255 5522.
Open all week 12-11.30pm. Credit cards. Ethnic music. Licensed. Children welcome. Disabled access and toilets. Street parking.
My star ratings (out of five):
Turkish / Ethnic restaurant category.