Looking down Chef Feriza Isik's menu, an internal monologue of 'I want that one, that one, that one, and that one' will play out as your mouth salivates at the delights you are about to consume.
The Nazar Group-owned restaurant brings a taste of Turkey's Ottoman empire to the Wynyard Quarter, showcasing a range of recipes from the Isik family and traditional dishes with a modern spin.
We're greeted warmly at the new opening by maître d' Jared, who embraces Feriza's symbol of treating customers like family while making the experience friendly as well as fun. The space is tastefully decorated with a mosaic tile floor, striking lanterns and an orb chandelier in the centre that wouldn't look out of place in Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sofia Palace.
The copper bar is fully equipped with all the drinks and cocktails you could imagine, not to mention ones you can't, like the Raki Instanmule — a concoction of rum, lime juice, topped with ginger beer and the beloved Ottoman spirit, raki. The result is a taste of summer that doubles as a palate cleanser. Both the Kavaklidere Turkish reds on the wine list are reasonably priced ($11 glass) and deliver opulent flavours that pair well with the red meat dishes.
Chef Feriza begins the meal with sigara borek (filo cigars), which are easy to share and offer a satisfying crunch followed by melted cheese and a warm potato filling. These were coupled with smoky baba ganoush dip and fresh Turkish pide.
The first main of table tennis ball-sized meatballs are filled with warm spices that enrich the high-quality meat and balance the tangy celeriac dip beautifully. This was followed by Iskender —scotch strips with broccolini and doused in a yoghurt dressing — plus a deconstructed Adana kebab topped with hand-cut fries.
The final dish and personal favourite was the octopus with potato piyaz including shallots — a meal that simply personifies joy. While less experienced chefs make the mistake of overcooking octopus and leaving it rubbery, Feriza prepares it to perfection.
Feriza was gifted the restaurant by her brother Alex so she could develop her grandmother's recipes. In reality, this is a gift to the Auckland public who can now savour these Turkish delights.
Even with Jared's teasing offer of Loukoumades (fried doughnut balls), the quality and portion sizes leave your chair creaking and having to conserve dessert for next time.