An authentic Turkish restaurant called A Taste of Turkey has opened just at 22 Manchester Road in Avenham.
Husband and wife team Gue and Hakan moved from Istanbul to Preston about six months ago. After being impressed by the number of diverse and independent restaurants in the city, they decided to settle here with their son and set up their dream restaurant.
The couple very kindly invited Blog Preston to try some of their specialities. This was my first time reviewing a restaurant whose owners were aware that we were coming ahead of our visit, so I decided to throw them in at the deep end and bring Yvonne.
We received a warm welcome and were taken to our table. The decor was authentic, with bright tablecloths, wall hangings and an array of beautiful jewelled lanterns. Hakan told us that they were handmade from pumpkins by family members.
We got settled and I asked if we could try a few small samples of their best dishes.
First to the table was some beautifully light home-made bread straight out of the stone oven, which Gue explained was complimentary to all diners ordering a main meal. It came alongside four tangy dips; spiced tomato, yoghurt, aubergine and onion. The dips were also homemade.
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That was the beginning of a kind of Matrix glitch, which consisted of a dish being brought to the table, Yvonne asking Hakan if it’s homemade (yes), and then me asking what’s in it (it’s a secret).
It became apparent very early on that everything bar the chips was a homemade secret, but for some reason I kept at it, like trailing a shop assistant around Poundland asking the price of stuff I don’t need.
The plates just kept coming. A thin spinach and cheese pide, garlicky and crunchy, which would make a great lunch on its own. Cold Turkish baked beans and hummus, both of which were good but had to take a back seat to the rest of the smorgasbord.
My favourite of the evening was a dish of small pieces of lamb fried with herbs, spices and bread to soak up the juices, and accompanied by a thick scoop of yoghurt. I’m going to take a wild, amateurish guess at it being called Iskender Kebap. I can’t be sure due to a clash of pronunciations combined with Hakan keeping schtum about his ingredients and Yvonne shouting questions at him in a Northern accent whilst trying to mime “croutons”.
Gue explained that the mixed platter for two that she brought to our table was smaller than the usual size because we had asked for little portions. I wouldn’t have known because it was still easily enough for two people.
Meat lovers have to try it. There were lamb chops, lamb ribs, chicken breast, chicken wings and spicy ground lamb kebap, all cooked perfectly on a charcoal grill in the pristine, open plan kitchen, and served on yet more stone-baked bread. There were two delicious disks of crispy bread with spiced meat on top, a large portion of rice and a fresh salad.
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There was also a dish of homemade tomato sauce on the platter which, after great pressure, Hakan reluctantly admitted contained tomato. He quickly regained the upper hand by informing me that the fries were sprinkled with a tasty seasoning of what, unsuprisingly, turned out to be his secret recipe.
A small bowl of chargrilled peppers tucked away behind more meat was evidence that vegetarians and vegans will be well looked after. Hakan told us they serve an array of vegetarian and vegan food, and will even create something off-menu, if he has prior knowledge of what a customer likes.
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We were absolutely stuffed. Yvonne more so than I because us “sharing” food means her hoovering it up while I snatch the odd scrap off the plate like a runty hyena. Gue kindly wrapped our leftovers to take home if we could jam it in Yvonne’s Skoda.
The meal didn’t end there as Hakan and Gue brought some beautifully scented tea and two small cups of strong, sweet Turkish coffee that could wipe the floor with a can of Red Bull. We were also given two traditional desserts to try. A semolina cake in syrup which was a little too sweet for me, and a halved quince, which if I understood correctly was poached in a sauce of its own seeds. Despite sounding like something that happened to captured pirates, the technique worked wonders on a fruit with the end result tasting a little like sweet mulled wine.
Yvonne and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to A Taste of Turkey, so much so that Yvonne took Dry Tony there two days later. (Dry because of his wit, not because he abstains from alcohol. Nobody wants a dad called Wet Tony.)
Hakan and Gue are clearly passionate about buying fresh, local produce to make beautiful food from scratch, without cutting corners. If we had visited incognito I believe my review would have been exactly the same but with Yvonne’s trotter in 40% of the photos.
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Have you been forced to share a meal with someone like Yvonne? Let us know in the comments below.