Ottoman Mezze Lounge
This inner city Turkish restaurant has everything going for it minus an extra few handfuls of herbs and spices.
On any given lunch break, Queen's Rise, Queen Street's high brow interpretation of a food court, sees people consistently fill each restaurant's chairs in droves. The hybrid food court, which launched in June this year fills the first floor of the former BNZ building and heritage site which was built back in 1897. Developer Duncan Elley said in September 2016 that the new luxe food court, "has been inspired by the best international café courts and laneway concepts found abroad."
One of the restaurants taking up real estate in Queen's Rise is Ottoman Mezze Lounge, a Turkish restaurant and bar which aims to reflect the diversity of Turkish dishes "from the very traditional to the contemporary, from village dishes to dishes influenced by the Ottoman kitchens of the past."
The restaurant is an absolute stunner — with an open plan kitchen encircled by a beautiful, forest green, oval marble bench top, luxe copper fixtures, cute Parisian-style seating and pretty black and white tiled flooring. As could be predicted, when I arrived at the Ottoman the place was absolutely bogged down with hungry suits. Nevertheless, the owner still personally made the rounds to check that every table was having a lovely time. A nice touch.
Ottoman's food is a thing of Instagram-level beauty and their ingredients are outstanding. Excuse the hyperbolic language, but their sweet chai latte ($4) was one of the best I've had in my life. In my phone notes about their hummus I simply wrote "Hummus!!" and kept munching away at the perfectly made, absolutely smooth chickpea-based creation. Their Jordanian lamb ($18), which rested on said hummus, was incredibly well cooked: juicy with not an overly chewy or dry centimetre on the plate. My only disappointment in Ottoman was that in spite of being perfectly prepared, the lamb was just a little under in terms of actual flavour.
Slightly distraught that what was otherwise a near perfect restaurant could make such a small but crucial error, I later had a Facebook messenger debrief with a friend who echoed my sentiments. Said friend: "I had a falafel wrap when I went, it was yummy. But I was kinda underwhelmed tbh." After a bit of toing and froing, we settled on a possible explanation for this restaurant that has everything going for it minus an extra few handfuls of spices and herbs: "It's like they told people to make it for a Kiwi palate and then underestimated how much spice Kiwis can take." (Ottoman Mezze Lounge, please, if you're reading this, we are all rooting for you, but please step it up in the spice department, we can take it, we promise.)
Besides the Ottoman Mezze Lounge's slightly bland and hopefully quickly remedied flavour pitch, the restaurant is pretty much perfection and a much welcomed, more sophisticated interpretation of Turkish food than your usual kebab shop on Queen Street. Hopefully with a few tweaks the restaurant will stay around for a while and become a bit of a Queen Street institution.