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The following is abridged from an article written by James Radford and first published in June 1996 in Nottinghamshire Now magazine.

“If Antalya was good enough for the Emperor Hadrian to visit, then it’s good enough for me, albeit 2,000 years later.  Naturally Nottinghamshire Now! Didn’t send me on an all expenses trip paid trip to Turkey but I was fortunate enough to visit the wonderful Antalya Restaurant on Forman Street in Nottingham in search of Turkish delight.

Every Turkish dish you’ve ever heard of is available at Antalya – and several more.  My three friends and I sipped imported Efes Pilsners as we pored over the menu and wine lists.  Antalya is a cosy little eatery, with a friendly atmosphere.  The waiter didn’t mind us spending 20 minutes ordering our meals and we didn’t mind either, as we were nibbling a tasty assortment of fresh pitta bread, crisp carrots, juicy olives and pickled chillies.

Our starters soon arrived.  First, Tabule for one of my companions.  Specially prepared crushed wheat, finely chopped spring onion, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, parsley and green peppers coated with piquant lemon juice and oil makes a salad dish much greater than the sum of its parts.  Another had opted for something more traditional, a Tarma Salad featuring the classic Turkish fish roe paté.  It was fresher than any Tarma I’ve had before, and very addictive when swiped on to pitta bread.  The Ciger was even more delicious – lamb’s liver, fried with onions, green peppers and garlic.  I don’t’ usually enjoy offal, but this really was a testy cut of liver and the garlic gave it ample richness.  In addition to the above we ordered Karisik Meze, a combination of starters.  I wanted to sample as many dishes from the menu as I could: Patlican Kizarmta – fried aubergine with yoghurt, onions and puréed tomatoes and garlic; Humus – chick peas, tahini, lemon, olive oil and a rumour of garlic; Tabule; Tarma; Yaprak Muska Borek – freshly fried filo pastry filled with white cheese, egg and parsley.  An absolute odyssey of tastes!  I was very impressed with the creamy Humus, intrigued by the subtle Dolmasi, but the Muska Borek was my favourite by a whisker – especially when dipped in Humus.

Good starters always make you feel hungrier instead of filling you up, and we were all ravenous after our hors d’oeuvres.  The first main course to arrive was Tavuk Pirzola, which was, grilled chicken cutlets with rice and salad.  A simple but tasty dish, which owed its appeal to the quality of the chicken.  I’d gone for the Guvec which is a rich mixture of cubes of lean, succulent lamb, aubergine, green peppers, tomatoes, onions and a hint of garlic specially prepared in a clay oven dish.  

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It is accompanied by a separate dish of rice and a boat of hot chilli sauce.  This actually resembled a lamb stew, although with distinctly Turkish ingredients.  Aubergines are usually used in restaurants today as the centrepiece of dull vegetarian alternatives, but in Turkish dishes like this one, they are properly cooked to bring out their subtle flavour.  The Guvec made me thirsty, but not for another beer: I ordered a bottle of Buzbag to accompany our meal.  The climate in Turkey isn’t conducive to fine winemaking, but they still manage to create reasonable quality stuff like this.  Hefty and fruity it was ideal company for my Guvec. 

Meanwhile, a member of my party was tucking in to a selection of grilled doner, shish, kofte, chicken and lamb cutlets and a lean mouth watering selection of cuts it turned out to be.  I expect the idea of doner, shish or kofte kebabs will have many serious gastronauts heading for the exist, but the quality of the kebabs at Antalya is so far removed from the kebab bought from the corner chippy.  Another had gone for a Chicken Kebab, which entailed marinated cubes of chicken with onion, green peppers and mushrooms, grilled and served with rice.  Seasoning on this dish was light allowing the flavour of the fine fowl to come through again.

Morsels were swapped, the charcoal-grilling method was speculated over, glasses were drained and plates were finally cleared.  After a long rest, we asked our waiter to recommend a few puddings.  Baklava and Kadiyaf are Antalya’s finest Tatlilar (puddings), so we had two of each.

Kadiyaf is a strange, honeyed pastry, which looks like thin strands of pasta, but tastes a lot better.  The Baklava, which one friend and I were lucky enough to have chosen was even better – delicate pastry envelope of pistachios and honey.  If you don’t want desert there’s always the obligatory fruit course, which involved fresh melon, orange, apple and kiwi fruit.

We even cleared the fruit platter and actually went on to enjoy tea, coffee and liqueurs.  An Elma Cayi, (apple tea), for me and three Turk Kahvesi, (Turkish Coffee), for my friends.  My apple tea was unusual – unlike lemon tea, the fruit was the dominant taste.  Nicer than your average cha any day.  We nibbled on chunks of fresh Turkish delight studded with pistachios and sipped a few chocolate, citrus or mint Turkish liqueurs to finish our meal.  Sweeter than digestifs but just perfect for a sweet tooth like me.

I really can’t find any significant fault with Antalya.  Not only is it affordable enough to visit every week, but the food’s actually very good, too.

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