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I love being surprised. And this place was a totally unexpected surprise. I have heard mixed reports on Anatoli’s, a Turkish restaurant in green point that has been going since 1984, and for some reason none of them tempted me enough to go check it out. So when we accidentally stumbled upon the red brick Victorian warehouse (circa 1904) that houses the restaurant, we decided that fate had made the decision for us (and luckily they had a table available).

I can understand why Wine magazine voted them as one of the most romantic restaurants in Cape town. With high beamed ceilings, tapestries hung on distressed terracotta colored walls, beautifully patterned floors and lanterns dangling about, the atmosphere is exotic and effortlessly authentic. Service was excellent, and even our waiter’s low brow English accent seemed exotic under the circumstances.

The laminated one page menu had me a little worried, but it seems at Anatoli’s they rely quite heavily on visual merchandising to sell their food. And as Turkish cuisine is amazingly varied, one can assume that most diners will find something they like. The starters comes in the form of 28 dish meze which is displayed on a Viking sized tray brought to your table with each dish explained by the waiter. Some hot, some cold, some dips, but all very Turkish. Think dolmades, grilled haloumi, humus, yoghurt based dips and lots of aubergine, tomato, garlic, chilli, lemon juice, lamb, cucumber, walnuts, cinnamon, pine nuts, peppers, feta, anchovies, tuna  etc. We had the the Potatoes Boregi (a Hot dish) consisting of mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and chilli flakes wrapped in phyllo pastry and deep fried and Arnavut Cigeri which is lamb livers tossed in spicy flour, deep fried and served with lemon and sumac dressed onions. With this you can choose either plain or garlic fired bread, dropped straight onto your table from the oven and unceremoniously cut with a seriously impressive-looking curved blade.  Eating the hot bread straight of the table with your hands adds a tactile element which might not be the height of decorum, but certainly makes the bread taste even better!

For mains we were told to follow the waiter to a deli/buffet like display, where the options for the day are displayed in metal serving dishes. I don’t mind having to get up and go decide what I want, but I wasn’t that convinced with the overall look and display of the food. While I am usually a sucker for a lamb shank, and the explanation would have had me sold (slowly cooked for 4 hours with orange juice, coriander seeds and other spices) these shanks looked a bit burnt and unappetizing, sitting in a gloopy looking sauce. After everything had been explained, I must admit we made our choices based on what looked best. Lots of the dishes are slow cooked in sauces and spices, which easily appear less appetizing sitting in tray than it sounds or even tastes.  We chose the lamb in yoghurt (Cubed lamb cooked in yoghurt & black pepper topped with garlic, butter and coriander)served with rice and the Lahana Dolmasi (Cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, lamb mince, pine nuts, black currants, herbs and baked in the oven with fresh tomato sauce with dill) served with garlic yoghurt and shepherd salad. Both were delicious, and throughout the evening, I saw quite a few of the other options passing by and looking very much more appetizing once plated with its accompaniments.
Desserts are once again showcased on a mammoth tray and everything looked delicious, from the baklava to the orange stew with bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves.  Crème caramel and chocolate pots cater for the less adventurous, while the Turkish coffee is /serious enough for even the most discerning palates/strong enough to keep the designated driver awake while you try the Raki (Turkish aperitif) . The Wine list, I felt, was quite varied except for the fact that there are only 4 options under R100 (bar the house variety), 3 whites and 1 rose. Corkage is R45, but only applies to wines not on the wine list.

The overall experience was very authentic, so authentic in fact that I am now adamant on visiting Turkey, a destination that wasn’t at the top of my list before!