I am passionate about food, cooking and ingredients. Currently in London, just back from eating my way around the world in one tasty adventure.Visit www.Mange-Two.blogspot.com for updates and inspiration.
Published June 2nd 2012
The sweet smell of jasmine on the evening breeze. Grilled fish and spices. Turkish coffee and baklava.
These are some of the delights that I might be sampling if I went on holiday to Turkey this year, unfortunately I sampled none of these at Caravanserai Restaurant in West End this week.
Don't get me wrong. This is a lovely restaurant. It's just that it's not very, well, Turkish.
From the outside, on a May evening at dusk, the place looks warm, cosy and inviting. Under cover outside the front, gas heaters warm the pavement and al fresco dining tables.
Inside the restaurant is also warm and cosy, with Ottoman artefacts hung from the red painted walls, Turkish rugs draped over tables and small lanterns providing the lighting.
Dim And Breezy
That was my first niggle. I'm all for a romantic setting as those who have read my previousarticles will know. But I like to have enough light to see what I'm doing. We were put at the back of the restaurant even though it wasn't that full, and didn't really get busy the whole night.
The table was wobbly and we were near the door to the toilets. This would not have been a problem except for the fact the toilets were outside. Every time anyone popped out to use the facilities a cold gust would rush in to the restaurant and give us a little shiver.
Back to the food. From what I could make out in the dim illumination the first courses sounded great. I have been to Turkey a number of times and love the cuisine. I spotted lentil soup on the main course and asked if I could have it as a starter portion. We also ordered a pide - another classic Turkish dish.
When the food arrived everyone could see the mistake that had occurred. I did have lentil soup for a starter, but it was a full portion with its own hunk of bread to boot. The pide turned up as well, but it was just Turkish bread with garlic butter, not a real pide. All were delicious nonetheless. When we tried to explain the situation to another member of staff we were told that we could always just share one of our main meals - not the response we were looking for, but the starters were tasty and we were hungry so we shared soup and bread and waited to see how much room we had left for our mains.
Tasty But Not Very Turkish
The main dish selections were a little less Turkish sounding. I opted for the Kuzu, a braised lamb shank, which sounded the most authentic thing on the list. My partner had a steak, which wasn't very Turkish, but she loves a good eye fillet and was in the mood. It sounded like a great combination along with our bottle of Shiraz that we had taken in with us, corkage charged at $3 per person.
We didn't get the choice of sharing a main as the waitress had suggested. Both dishes turned up to the table and were presented to us without mentioning our prior agreement. Not to worry, we were both feeling gung-ho and pressed on with our task in hand.
The dishes were presented well. Nothing too fancy. A robust large portion of meat, potatoes and veg with each meal. The lamb was on a pile of mash with an onion salad. The steak with a potato gratin and asparagus.
Both dishes were tasty, but lacked any Eastern influence. We managed to do our best with the portions but the first course had thrown us off course for reaching the dessert destination that we had originally had in our sights.
Starters: Garlic Pide ($9.50), Lentil Soup ($19.50) Mains: Kuzu Lamb ($24.50), Sultan's Steak (£34.50) Corkage: Two people ($6.00)
We came away stuffed from Caravanserai. It was a good meal but we felt slightly let down. If we had better service and chosen more wisely with our dishes I think it would have been a very different experience.
Perhaps steering clear of the humus and kebaps was a mistake. I might just have to go back and let you know.