Occupying the corner where Willoughby Road meets the Pacific Highway, Turka is a newly opened cafe, bar and restaurant this year, which is immensely popular with the locals. Known for its traditional Turkish big breakfast, which presents a smorgasbord of items such as cheeses, spreads, yoghurt, fruit and traditional Turkish scrambled eggs with capsicums, tomato and parsley, its a refreshingly different offering from usual cafe fare of french toast and poached eggs.
‘Kayra Bogazkere’ Red Wine ($11 per glass)
In a somewhat industrial looking space, which is transformed with Parisian wicker dining chairs, loudly patterned tiles, garlands of dried chillis and hanging mosaic lamps, we settle in for a pre-dinner glass of ‘Kayra Bogazkere’ red wine from Diyarbakir, Turkey upon recommendation from our waitress Veronika. It has a gorgeous sweet, berry aroma with a delicious and light yet full-bodied flavour — delicious!
Chef’s Selection of Dips & Cold Meze ($39 pp)
Sundried tomatoes dip
Green olives with feta cheese & pine nuts dip
Marinated baby artichoke hearts in pomegranate molasses and olive oil, garnished with tomatoes, feta and fresh mint
Selection of mixed Turkish olives
Traditional stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs; Smoked marinated red capsicums stuffed with homemade cheese, walnuts and dried apricots;
Authentic homemade green beans with olive oil; hummus with tahini and garlic (background)
Tonight, we were treated to the ‘Chef’s Selection Menu’ — an assortment of dips, cold meze and hot meze, which is available for $39 per person. To start, a large wooden board carrying various small dishes arrived at the table with a generous basket of toasted bread. Chef Julio explains that everything, including all of the dips are made fresh everyday using premium ingredients.
To say we were blown away is an understatement! Everything was so fresh and bursting with flavour. Highlights for me were the hummus, which was much smoother and had a thinner consistency than regular hummus, without compromising on that delicious, nutty chickpea taste; the garlic dip, which was chunky and full of mellow, roasted garlic flavour; the beetroot dip, which perfectly balanced an initial sweetness with slightly sour, acidic notes; and the tender green beans cooked with sweet, ripe tomatoes and onions.
The first hot meze dish — Chef Julio’s famous homemade chickpea falafels with hummus and pickled vegetables. A crisp outer shell speckled with sesame seeds and a warm, moist and fluffy centre, which was fragrant with spices. As someone who does not normally enjoy falafels, which can be dry and flavourless, I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of this dish, which is actually Julio’s mum’s recipe, together with the fresh pickles and hummus. Highly recommended if you are a falafel lover!
Cyprus Honey Halloumi
My eyes lit up when the next dish arrived at the table — grilled, thick-cut halloumi cheese, which chef Julio says is delivered especially to them from a farm approximately 3 hours away from the restaurant. The texture is bouncy and firm yet soft, with a delicious salty flavour, which contrasts beautifully with the glossy honey sauce and sweet sultanas. Heavenly!
Divan Spinach Beetroot Salad
Having stuffed ourselves with so much bread as we grazed on cold meze and dips, we were full even before the hot mains had arrived! The spinach beetroot salad was a refreshing interlude full of fresh baby spinach, beetroot, hazelnuts, chickpeas, carrots, feta cheese, pomegranate sauce and sultanas. As with many of the dishes sampled thus far, this dish showcased a wonderful balance of flavour and texture, with the right amount of vibrant sour elements in the pomegranate sauce to balance the sweet roasted beetroot and sultanas.
The first of the meat dishes was a generous pan of grilled chicken marinated in Turkish herbs and spices, served with fresh, creamy cacik — a garlic yoghurt sauce with shredded cucumber, similar to tzatziki; and pickled vegetables. Moist, tender and packed with flavour from the fragrant marinade, this is a truly delicious dish.
Slow-Cooked Pulled Lamb
The final dish of the night — traditionally marinated slow-cooked pulled lamb on a bed of eggplant, garlic and tomato sauce. Up to my ears in meze and on the verge of unbuttoning my jeans, I wasn’t ecstatic to try this next dish, which looked a little dry. Suprisingly, however, this was a warm, comforting dish packed with punchy flavour and not-at-all dry pulled lamb!
I excitedly zapped a mishmash of leftovers in the microwave the next day, which somehow even further accentuated the rich, spiced flavours of the pulled lamb and marinated chicken. I was truly amazed by the quality of food and service at Turka, which is unsurprisingly a hot spot for lower North Shore locals. We’ve already raved to family and friends about this Turkish communal dining experience and can’t wait to come back!
Thank you to Julio, Veronika and the team at Turka! Eats with Marie dined as a guest of Turka and Ompty Media. All opinions, comments and photos are 100% honest and my own.
TURKA Cafe | Meze | Bar
8 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 8592 1267
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