Tapas has been a roaring food trend for many years but it’s usually the Spanish kind.
A restaurant in Ettalong is bringing the Turkish version, meze, to the table on the Central Coast.
From the Persian mazze, meaning to relish, Safran restaurant specialises in small plates of bite-sized Turkish tapas designed to share and savour with friends over a bottle of wine or some raki.
We have it on good authority that rose pairs nicely with meze (BYO wine is available for $5 per person).
If you’re not a wine drinker, there’s an intriguing Turkish delight cocktail with rose water, Turkey’s Efes pilsner or raki, the Turk’s take on ouzo.
On a balmy evening, most of the dining at Safran is al fresco in the paved, palm-fringed courtyard of Ettalong’s retro market complex.
Overhead, the sun is setting turning the sky a pretty pale pink.
Sipping on a crisp rose and nibbling on icli kofte bulgur dumplings (like arancini filled with spiced lamb and pinenuts), we could be in Istanbul – all that’s missing is the rhythmical call of the muezzin and the famous silhouette of the Blue Mosque.
From pine nuts to pomegranate, the meze flavours are exotic and the method authentic but there is a modern Australian twist.
Vine leaves are filled with barramundi, currants and pine nuts, and prettied up with nasturtium petals; plump prawns are wrapped in shredded pastry and drizzled in sticky orange syrup; zucchini fritters are served with a garlic and dill yogurt and garnished with delicate micro herbs; and the 12-hour mulberry-glazed beef ribs with semolina mousse are bite-sized perfection.
If it was earlier in the day we’d be tempted to have a Turkish coffee with our dessert and see what fortunes the dark grains reveal.
We settle for the last of our rose with a tasting plate that brings together the famous flavours of the Ottoman Empire – Turkish delight, milk pudding, semolina cake and baklava.
Coastal Chic Tip: If the exotic menu is too hard to navigate, try the banquet. It’s $48pp and features some of Safran’s best dishes