FOOD REVIEW: Turkuaz is delightful

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A Turkish restaurant tucked away above shops on London Road is well worth hunting down, discovers Julia Armstrong

We stupidly picked a Tuesday night when Blades were playing to visit a Turkish restaurant on London Road and couldn’t find anywhere to park, so ended up leaving the car nearer to Ecclesall Road.

As it turns out, this was unnecessary because Turkuaz has its own car park, one of many reasons to commend it.

The restaurant isn’t immediately obvious on the first floor of London Road, above a Costcutter convenience store, with the entrance around the side.

Just up a few stairs, you walk into a sort of red and cream winter wonderland as they have lots of twinkling lights and lanterns lit up, giving the restaurant an elegantly festive air.

It almost feels more Scandinavian at the moment, as there are tiny red Christmas trees and lanterns on the tables, matching the colour scheme, and cushions scattered about on window seats.

So it’s a shame that we have the place to ourselves at first. Our table near the window gives a great view of a packed Pho 68 restaurant across the road.

However, Huseyin Esendemir said it’s getting busy at weekends, particularly with party bookings. They have belly dancers, including Britain’s Got Talent star Sophie Mei, some weekends.

Huseyin has lived in Sheffield for 15 years and his varied experience in the food industry ranges from running a Wimpy Bar in east London to setting up the Costcutter downstairs. He took Turkuaz over from his brother.

Huseyin said: “When people come here, they come back again.” He puts a lot of that down to the cooking of his chef, Salma Uzum.

They offer a range of wines, including some Turkish ones, at around £14 to £17 a bottle or £3 a glass, but my friend Linda and I went for bottled Efes Turkish pilsner lager instead (£2.80).

Once we had menus and drinks, our waiter brought us a dish of lovely olives covered in a thick, spicy dressing and a basket of some irresistible flatbreads.

I had a panic when I realised I recognised him as Admirale Caldlon, who I interviewed when he ran Caffe Piazza on Church Street in the city centre. I don’t announce myself as a reviewer, wanting to be treated like any customer.

Luckily he didn’t make the connection. Anyone who has come across Admirale will know he is a bit of a character who likes to remember customers.

We decided to try the three-course set menu for two, which costs £33 in total (two courses cost £29). Sadly, that means no fish – sea bream was on specials – but you get three starters, two main courses and two puddings.

The menu offers hot and cold meze starters (£3.75 to £4.50), including combos for two if you’re not on the deal.

The main courses include food cooked on skewers over hot coals and dishes with traditional Turkish sauces. There are some vegetarian options including a musakka (moussaka) and skewered vegetables with hallouni. Prices range from £7.95 to £11.75.

For our three starters, we chose saksuka, esme and muskaboregi. We said yes to Admirale’s offer of more bread.

The saksuka was a cold dish of aubergine, fried potatoes and peppers, marinated in a tomato and herb sauce.

The esme looked fairly similar and was a vegetable salad flavoured with chilli, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.

Both tasted good and the saksuka had a very soft texture. The esme salad had a welcome medium chilli hit.

The muskaboregi, cigar-shaped pastry made with filo, was filled with feta cheese and parsley and very enjoyable.

For our main courses, I chose iskender adana and Linda went for guvec lamb.

Linda’s dish was lamb baked in a pot with tomato and green chillies. She said the lamb was a little chewy but enjoyed the dish.

It came with a lovely little dome of rice in a separate earthenware bowl.

My dish was pieces of charcoal-grilled chicken on a bed of bread, baked in a fresh tomato sauce and served with yogurt and a drizzle of butter.

The chicken pieces were good and tender and the sauce was lovely and rich and was partly soaked up by the bread, which also tasted of the butter. The yoghurt was thick and a great contrast to the rich sauce.

Ever if we hadn’t got over-enthusiastic about the bread earlier, the generous portions would still have defeated us.

However, after a break we decided to try the puddings. Linda could only face vanilla ice cream but I went for kunefe.

We also had little cups of Turkish tea.

The kunefe was a little round dish of shredded filo pastry which has been softened in butter with a layer of mozzarella cheese and more pastry on the bottom, all soaked in a light syrup, then baked.

They do the traditional pudding of baklava as well, but I wanted to try something different.

It was interesting and not too sweet and the cheese layer worked surprisingly well but even a little dish was too much for my stomach.

Our bill came to £41.95. It was presented in a little box and came with two pieces of Turkish delight. They also threw in two glasses of sambuca.

Verdict: This place deserves to be busier with good cooking in lovely surroundings.

Turkuaz Bar and Grill, first floor, 178-184 London Road, S2 4LT. 0114 258 2255. Turkuaz, Sheffield Opening times: Sunday to Saturday, noon ‘til late’.