This week my daughter Beth and I visited Totto’s as part of Blog Preston’s series of best and worst restaurants according to TripAdvisor. A cosy little Turkish and Mediterranean bistro situated in Fleet Street in the city centre, Totto’s is described by customers as “a hidden gem” and a “Turkish Delight”.
When we walked in at 7pm on a Wednesday evening, we were warmly greeted by a waiter and shown to a table by the window. The ground floor area is small, so I would recommend that people with mobility issues book early to ensure they get a table on that level. We’d already looked at the menu on their Facebook page, so it didn’t take long to choose the Special House Mezze at £21.50pp for a minimum of two people.
The cold starters were the first to arrive. Warm, homemade flatbread and generous bowls of various dips. The garlicky hummus was my favourite, whilst Beth preferred a tangy yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip. Following close behind was antep ezme – a finely chopped mix of onion, tomato, peppers, chilli and parsley.
I had chosen the perfect dining companion in Beth, who has been well trained in dipping etiquette from an early age. Yvonne was left at home, as sharing a board with her is as appealing as a game of Monopoly with Philip Green. Her rap sheet contains such unacceptable crimes as double-dipping, scooping, cross-contamination, deception about how many pieces she’s had and shamelessly squirrelling bread away for later. Don’t feel sorry for her, she made her choices.
There was also a bowl of pickled beetroot, four vine leaves stuffed with rice and some red beans in special sauce. I’m not a big fan of stuffed vine leaves as they join mushrooms and green beans under the banner of Unacceptably Squeaky Food. However I tried some and they tasted authentic, so lovers of stuffed vine leaves shouldn’t be deterred.
The cold red beans in sauce were a little like homemade baked beans, but once I’d overridden the voice telling me that they should be served hot on Warburtons Toastie, they were also an enjoyable addition.
Next came the hot starters and a telling-off from one of the owners for taking a photo whilst my food was getting cold. Thankfully I managed to contain the unexpected and alarming urge to shout “You’re not my real dad!”, because the rebuke was delivered with such a genial eye-twinkle.
Our two favourites were a spicy oven-baked Turkish sausage called sucuk, and sigara boregi, two crispy filo rolls stuffed with feta, mozzarella, onions and mint. The strongly flavoured sausage traditionally has a high fat content similar to chorizo, which is a little too much for me on its own. However, when eaten with the accompanying salad and the remaining bread it was delicious. The feta, onion and mint in the sigara boregi was a perfect combination of flavours, whilst the filo added an enjoyable crunch.
The main course to share was a large plate of beautifully cooked mixed meats. The lamb was my favourite, as it was without the chewiness and fattiness that can be so off-putting with that particular meat. It was served with a fresh salad and a generous portion of mildly spiced rice. Unfortunately, we were so full by then that we only managed a few bites before asking for it to be wrapped to take away.
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On the plus side I had a lovely tea the next evening. It would have been perfect with Totto’s yoghurt dip, but as I didn’t bring that home I added a dash of hot chilli sauce. My Chihuahua isn’t allowed near my food, but if something smells good enough his technique is to position himself about ten feet away in the periphery of my vision and silently beg. It works for us as his interest in my food is registered whilst we both politely pretend it’s not happening.
Delicious as it was, there was so much of it that I reluctantly gave the last piece of lamb to Archie, who immediately bolted it without chewing and started apparently choking. There followed a dramatic thirty seconds of an outraged, boggle-eyed Archie gasping and wheezing whilst I tried to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre, before I remembered the hot sauce and released him. Definitely better with the yoghurt dip.
The food at this family-run restaurant was good, but it’s the combination of friendly staff, welcoming and dedicated owners and cosy premises that takes a visit from good to excellent. Totto’s reminds me of one of those homely little establishments that are tucked away down little side streets, somewhere in the Mediterranean. The kind that is full of locals and only ever to be found on the last day of a holiday.
For anyone who feels their summer holiday was over too quickly, Totto’s is the place to go to for a little extra sunshine.
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Have you been to Totto’s? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.