Turkish cookery is rooted in the tradition of Ottoman cuisine, which can be defined as a fusion and fine-tuning of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan foods. Emerging from the open-plan kitchen at Anatoli Express, each tray of beautiful Turkish food tells a different tale of culture and history.
“Turkish Cuisine inspires us,” says owner Tayfun Aras. “And apparently our pides (pita bread) and meatballs are legendary”. After opening its doors on 15 May 2012, Anatoli Express has built up a following in the trendy crowds working and playing around Green Point. Coming here is like a trip to Turkey without the airfare, says Tayfun.
Whether it’s your first time or if you’re a regular seat warmer, you must order the mixed meze and salad plate, served with warm slices of bread. Of special mention are the cinnamon-infused dolmades, so be sure to ask for those in your selection. (The recipe belongs to Tayfun’s mother, which explains why they’re so special.)
As a side dish, order the garden salad with Mediterranean greens, rosa tomatoes, feta, olives and red onion served with a homemade vinaigrette, or the grilled halloumi salad containing all the greens, but with the appealing addition of grilled halloumi cheese, croutons of simit (Turkish bread much like a bagel) and walnuts for added texture, plus a drizzle of vinaigrette.
Then bear witness to the acclaimed pides: the sucuk and cheese pide is a simple but aromatic flatbread peppered with sucuk, a dry, spicy Turkish sausage, and covered with melted cheese.
If you’re feeling more adventurous (and you should be), then the manti should be on your list: homemade lamb-filled pasta, covered in a creamy yogurt sauce and served with tomato salsa and dried chillies in melted butter.
Tapas-style lunch more your thing? Then chicken shish and grilled kofte are the order of the day, with tender seasoned meat threaded on a skewer and grilled to perfection.
But it’s really all about the meatballs here. The oven-baked meatballs are cooked with aubergines, mushrooms and green peppers in a rich tomato sauce, topped with melted cheese. Once you taste this hearty portion you’ll need little encouragement to finish the whole lot, and then soak up that glossy sauce with your leftover bread.
“We try to change our desserts as often as we can to avoid being boring, but Turkish delight cheesecake and baklava are most popular,” says Tayfun. Other favourites are the creamy sago or a rich chocolate espresso pudding with white chocolate and cardamom aromatics.
There’s a fully licenced bar, and you can sample Anatoli’s very own branded Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.
Welcoming smiles take you to your table, and once they’ve answered your queries about the dishes and ingredients, they kindly leave you to tuck in.
Authentic Turkish ambience is created by the rich décor with dark woods and an intriguing gothic chandelier of flickering candle-like bulbs. The rugs and kilims on the walls are from a private collection, and the black and white photos were taken by Turkish photographer Babur Yakar.
On Fridays enjoy the special of a craft beer and meatballs and chips for R55.