Ruth Gunay admits that deciding to set up a restaurant just as Sheffield, like the rest of the world, was coping with a major economic depression maybe wasn’t the brightest idea.
However, Lokanta Turkish meze restaurant in Broomhill managed to weather another storm.
Ruth takes up the story: “When we opened at the end of 2009, it was a terrible time to open a restaurant and everybody said so.
“We had just come back from Turkey. We didn’t have any credit history and the banks weren’t lending money.”
Sheffielder Ruth and her husband Faruk, who she met on holiday in Turkey in 1989, were also focused on opening before Christmas and hadn’t stopped to think that December 20 might not be the best date for the launch, something she admits now was “a damned silly idea”.
Then bad snow hit and they feared the worst but held on. “For the first couple of years I kept saying ‘we haven’t gone bankrupt’.
“I’ve always said it was 50 per cent getting it right in the restaurant and 50 per cent keeping your costs down and doing your own work.”
Ruth and Faruk did have the benefit of plenty of experience in the hospitality industry in Turkey, ranging from beach bar shacks to upmarket restaurants.
Faruk left school when he was 12 and worked making baklava, then moved to the Mediterranean coast with his brother to open a beach water sports business.
Ruth, who is originally from Ecclesall, visited Faruk several times in Turkey before taking the plunge to give up a good job in London and join him.
When their eldest daughter was ready to go to school, they decided to move to Sheffield and set about bringing their passion for Turkish ‘restaurant standard’ food to the city.
Ruth said: “At the time we thought Turkey wasn’t really represented in a proper restaurant setting. We hope we’ve achieved that.”
The couple have also recently expanded into the Med Food Co just up Glossop Road from the restaurant, a takeaway offering good quality fast food.
The restaurant offers a meze menu of small dishes (like Spanish tapas) which is perfect for big groups sharing food in a relaxed setting.
Ruth said it works well across generations, so they get families as well as groups of friends at weekends.
There are also main course grills and kebabs, with fish and vegetarian options as well as plenty of meat choices.
The service is very good and attentive and the surroundings are warm and welcoming, with decor in spicy colours and Turkish kelim rugs used as throws.
A jug of iced water appeared on the table straightaway and we soon had drinks as well. A basket of complimentary home-made bread and a bowl of salsa appeared shortly afterwards. The bread was delicious but I wasn’t keen on the sharp salsa. Ruth said customers complained when they stopped serving it, so I’m in a minority.
We tried a couple of dishes from the meze menu as starters. The roasted aubergine puree was a joy, almost fluffy in texture with a good smoky taste.
The mushroom leek and feta parcels were also tasty in a very crunchy pastry and were accompanied by a pleasant cucumber, mint and yoghurt dressing.
We decided not to go for the full meze option, tempting as it was with a wide array of hot and cold choices, to give the main dishes a try.
My friend Linda and I still shared food, though, and one of the dishes was also on the meze menu.
That was Lokanta meatballs, which are grilled handmade flat lamb meatballs served on pieces of fried bread topped with fresh tomato sauce and garlic yogurt.
The meatballs were tender and had lots of subtle spicy flavours. The cubes of bread had a bit of crunch but also beautifully absorb the very moreish, creamy sauce. A satisfying dish of Turkish comfort food.
We also went for the chicken and halloumi mixed grill, which comprised grilled pieces of chicken and cheese, tomato and pepper, served with rice, sautéed potatoes, plus a little pot of tomatoey barbecue sauce.
The meat, cheese and vegetables were perfectly cooked and came in generous-sized chunks and the accompaniments made it a nicely varied plate of food.
Pleasantly full, we looked at the dessert menu and decided to go for coffees with side servings of baklava and Turkish delight. The baklava was gorgeous and not too sweet and the Turkish delight were a cut above.
Ruth said that everything is made on the premises, apart from the Sheffield-produced Yee Kwan ice cream.
We tried the fig and mascarpone flavour, dreamed up by a Telegraph reader in a competition. It was lovely but not noticeably figgy.
That rounded off a very enjoyable visit. Our bill came to £54.70 including two bottles of Turkish Efes beer. All the wines are Turkish and are growing in popularity.
On weekday evenings there is an early bird menu, offering one course for £10 or two for £14 from a more restricted menu.
The Sunday feast meze menu is £13 for adults and £5 for under-10s eating from the same menu.
Lo Kanta, Glossop Road, Broomhill
Tel: 0114 266 6444