Istanbul is a beautiful, vibrant yet gritty place. It's there in the Turkish centre that mezze platters, slow cooked Anatolian lamb, and baklava are best tasted, and surrounded by the culture that birthed them. Miss Istanbul has had a go at recreating some of that lively atmosphere in Ponsonby, and believe it or not, it's been pulled off.
The space is open to the market like buzz of the Ponsonby Central, livening up the area with its distinctly Turkish decor, and atmosphere reminiscent of a street food purveyor in Istanbul (though, a very upmarket one perhaps). A bar tiled with ornate Turkish designs is the main feature of the restaurant, housing a single chef as well as a small and completely open kitchen. The chef seems to be constantly chatting to customers in his heavy Turkish accent, offering a healthy dose of banter as well as samples of Turkish delight and other delicacies. Those at the bar are constantly laughing along with him while discussing the food they try.
When it comes time to order, ask the chef to fix you a surprise and he'll prepare an off-menu feast of all shapes and sizes. If you're not that starving go for the Anatolian slow cooked lamb and hummus ($18), it's a tender and tasty feast of shredded lamb atop a bed of fragrant garlic hummus, accompanied by Turkish salad and pitas.
Dining together? Grab The Feast ($28.50). This beauty is served on a rather fancy platter, complete with two skewers (go for halloumi and adana), salad, and a delicious collection of dips and flat breads. If you've got room after gorging yourself on halloumi, the baklava is one of the best we've tried in Auckland, served underneath a rather incredible strawberry ice cream.
Don't miss the chance to grab an ultra-strong Turkish coffee. It's like a short black, except the coffee is alive with the most incredible earthy flavours, making it a bloody good way to end a meal. Turkish food has become the cool thing to do recently. But Miss Istanbul isn't jumping on a fad — the food and atmosphere here are the real thing.