Turkish

Marmaris, Kings Heath

To get to the subject matter of this review, we must first look to Hana, which was the intended piece prior to its premature demise. Word of Hana spread faster than chlamydia in a Magaluf hotel when the signage went up, promising Moseley the enviable position of places that offer Middle Eastern food on three sides of a four-sided crossroad. It eventually opened to little attention, with balloons in the doorway and a couple of pissed-off looking waitresses sat bored in the window. The menu was not what I expected; yes, they had shwarma and baba ghounoush, but they also had kebab burgers with fries and salad, which isn’t instinctively the food that springs to mind when I think of Lebanon. Quickly stories spread on both of Moseley’s Facebook community pages (yes, we have two in Moseley: one ran by despot dictators, the other by a local drunk); unattentive service, incorrect dishes, cash only, and the refusal to give receipts were just some of the reasons I was desperate to go. No one seemed to like it, which made me want to go even more, though the same name popped-up on a reoccurring basis. Marmaris. I’d never heard of it. “It’s not as good as Marmaris”, everyone said, which made this horrid know-it-all seethe at my phone screen. When Hana closed prematurely after three weeks following a Facebook arguement with a paying customer and a waitress there was only one place I was going for koftes. I had to go deep into Kings Heath to see if Marmaris was any good.

It’s not what I expected. From the outside it looks like the kind of place that prides itself on a two out of five hygeine rating, not helped by the Just Eat stickers on the door and an unenviable position next to quite possibly the roughest Wetherspoon in South Birmingham. Inside they have spent at least nine quid on the decor with a few hard chairs and tables to sit at whilst the boss loudly berates the staff for burning bread. They have kebabs with chips and salad, though they also have a glass counter with various bits of impaled chicken and sheep. A lot of cling film is used here: on the hummus, the meat, the rice. I consider wrapping myself in it to protect my clothing from the smoke that leaves the grill and attaches itself to anything of value. That smoke shares the same values as many of my ex girlfriends.

We order too much with a couple of soft drinks and just tip past £30 between two. We can’t decide whether to eat the hummus or hang wallpaper with it, though are rewarded with a version that is light on tahini and heavy on both garlic and lemon when we opt for the former. A salad starts off great but quickly bleeds pickled red cabbage into everything else, and then there is the smoked aubergine dish with kofte and spicy tomato sauce that bears no resemblence at all to the same dish on the wall. The aubergine is lost in a sea of yogurt, with a sauce that tastes like a thickened Heinz soup. It is saved by the meat. That meat could save just about anything.

There is only one reason to be here and that is the grilled meat. They understand protein here better than they understand English, marinading until the proteins start to break down before grilling until that marinade catches at the edges.  A grill for two has some of the most tender chicken I can recall eating, and cubes of lamb with smokey ribbons of fat that yield just enough bite. There is minced chicken kofte and minced lamb kofte, both excellent, treated with the same amount of love and respect. I thought I’d eaten very good renditions of these before: I hadn’t compared to this. This comes with bulgar wheat and rice, a garlicky yoghurt, piquant chilli sauce and flat bread that tastes almost cheesey. All of this is £17. I wish we’d saved the bother and ordered two.

Service is exactly what you’d expect from a business used to pissed-up idiots from Wetherspoons, in that it’s hardly accommodating. We were supposed to be offered a choice of meat with the aubergine let-down but wasn’t, and don’t even think about enquiring about a half portion of the lamb chops. Even a drink mis-order was met with a stare when I dared to question it. But all of this is fine. For 40 minutes I am a tourist in a world I don’t see frequently enough. One full of hustle and smoke, where the emphasis is feeding over pandering. One where cash is king and ego is disregarded. One which has mastered the art of cooking over fire as well as any stuffy steak house with a josper. Facebook was right; Marmaris is ace.

8/10

Just because we never took an A2B doesnt mean that you shouldn’t.

Cappadocia, Jewellery Quarter

Google tells me that Cappadocia is a geological oddity in a semi-arid location, with homes carved directly into rock faces by Bronze Age cave dwellers. It sounds just like Dudley. And just like the Black Country’s finest, I wasn’t overly enthralled by the thought of going. It was another night of eating out, and I had a job interview the following morning and blah blah blah you don’t care for my whining about going out too much and quite rightly so. I know that I should really be thanking that God who doesn’t exist for my life of excess, not moaning and bitching and choosing to ignore the pain that starts across my chest and travels down my arm. And so I have made it out, sat in a lovely new Turkish restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter with a waiter who has taken a real interest in my name. I’m going to enjoy it. Really, I am.

It turns out that not enjoying it is not an option; the place is a total joy, one of those meals where you look at one another and the eyes say it all. At some point whilst stuffing my face with kebab I think I called one of the best finds of 2017, which I’m sticking with on the proviso that you stick to my suggestions . Top billing goes to a plate of loose hummus topped with crispy bits of lamb, complete with cooking liquor the deep brown colour of unapplied fake tan. Someone realised that hummus would be better burnished with meat juices and they are right. Find this man and bring him to me for further interrogation immediately. It is up there with the very best ways to spend £8 in Birmingham. I want to be preserved in this when I kick the bucket.

Prior to this we try some cold starters with flatbreads that fold easier than a Philip Green owned BHS. We love the baba ghanoush with fat chunks of aubergine that is so smokey it should come with a public health warning. Less love for the strained yogurt and cucumber which I am reliably told reaches ‘peak dill’ by my companion, but really doesn’t taste of much at all, and we’re back in the good books with a spritely Russian salad, though I am unsure what provenience it has here. Perhaps holding an airbase in Turkey has given them the right. And they make their own chilli sauce, a smokey pungent blitz of burnt vegetables and lots of chilli. It goes well with the halloumi and spiced beef sausage starter that is exactly as it sounds.

I admire the mains because they are intended to feed, not be photographed by idiots like me for Instagram. Both plates consist of bits of sheep and poultry, some rice and some bulgur wheat, and an attempt at salad. Everything we eat is a success, mostly because it tastes of what it is supposed to, which is animal, salt, and smoke. Best are the minced kebabs; the spiced lamb sheekh and chicken sibling which we tear apart with hands, douse with the chilli sauce and load on to the flatbread below that have soaked up the good bits.

If they do desserts I never saw them, though this is no bad thing. My suggestion is simple; book here and have the lamb and hummus for starters and follow it up with the minced kebabs combination. Throw in a medium sized glass of wine and your bill is under £25.00. Tip them. Thank them with all your heart for the meat sweats. Ask for some of that chilli sauce to take home and don’t look too disheartened when they say no. Go home and tweet me to say thanks for bringing it to your attention. I will probably ignore you. Do all of this and you will find a rather lovely Turkish restaurant. I can’t promise it will all be brilliant, but parts of Cappadocia are as good as it gets.

8/10

I was invited to dine at Cappadocia

Transport was provided by A2B Radiocars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com