Yemek Yemek, Norwich
A restaurant with an unusual name is bringing something different to Norwich, says Sarah Brealey.
What is Turkish food like? asked a friend when I suggested going to Yemek Yemek. 'I assume it is different to the kebab shops on Prince of Wales Road?'
This fairly new restaurant is aiming to provide traditional Turkish food that is very different to your late-night kebab. It is filling something of a gap in Norwich. For a while there was a Turkish restaurant, Marmaris, on Ber Street, but it did not last long and closed down a couple of years ago. It is in a space on St Stephen's Road previously occupied by a caf�, and although it looks quite small, there is more restaurant space upstairs.
Another answer to my friend's question is that Turkish food is quite similar to Greek– there are some shared dishes like hummus; the Turkish cacik is a yoghurt dip rather similar to tzatzki, and both cuisines rely heavily on ingredients like lamb, aubergines, tomatoes and yoghurt.
On our first visit the Real Ale Drinker and I were overcome with greed, or the inability to choose, or both, and therefore ordered three starters between us. Borek is a dish of which I have fond memories from holidays in Turkey – they are cigar-shaped pastry rolls filled with the Turkish equivalent of feta cheese. I thought these ones were a little too thin, and therefore had too high a ration of pastry to cheese, but they were not bad. Much better, in my view, were two aubergine dishes, which dealt with the same vegetable in contrasting ways. The first was fried aubergine with onions, peppers, courgettes and tomatoes, accompanied with a dollop of creamy yoghurt. It spoke of sunny places and was quite delicious. The other was smoked aubergine with yoghurt, a dish which for us evoked an al fresco meal in Bodrum, Turkey, a good few years ago – the first time we discovered the delectable smokiness that can be gained from grilling an aubergine until whole and blackened. This one was also pungent with garlic, and served with some more of the creamy yoghurt to cool it off. We accepted the offer of some home-made flatbread, which was light and fluffy, a perfect vehicle for scooping up the aubergine.
The Real Ale Drinker followed this with guvec, a dish of lamb, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines served in a clay pot. It was subtly spiced, and contained more vegetables than lamb, but he was quite happy with it. My main course was a simple but pleasing dish of spinach with onion and herbs baked with an egg on top, served with another delicious flatbread.
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The wine list is extremely short – one white, one red and one rose, at �12.95 for Hardy's Shiraz or Mateus Rose, or �15.95 for pinot grigio. If you want more of a taste of Turkey there is Efes, a refreshing Turkish lager, or the national spirit, raki, which has an aniseed flavour. There is Turkish tea and coffee too, and juices including peach or mango.
Desserts are arranged in the chiller counter, and the highlights are the famous Greek/Turkish sweet baklava, which is filo pastry layered with pistachios and syrup, and Turkish rice pudding, which is served cold and flavoured with orange zest and cinnamon, and is really rather nice. There is also kadayif, which is a variant of baklava made from shredded pastry. It looks rather like Shredded Wheat, and eating it is very much like eating warm, syrup-soaked shredded wheat.
With very pleasing food, and reasonable prices (�7 to �9 for a main course) it did not take much persuasion to return a week or two later with some friends. We shared a whole array of starters, including mushrooms baked with generous quantities of cheese, some very good hummus, and some grilled halloumi, that salty, squeaky white Cypriot cheese. Main courses included pide, the boat-shaped Turkish version of pizza which is often served without cheese. And we all departed full and satisfied.
Yemek Yemek is bringing a welcome taste of something different to Norwich. May it last longer than its predecessors.
Where is it?
13 St Stephen's Road, Norwich, NR1 3SP. Telephone 01603 621355.
When is it open?
Lunchtime and evening, every day except Monday.
Are there vegetarian options?
Yes, several starters and four or five main courses, including vegetable kebab and a casserole of aubergines, peppers, mushrooms and potatoes.
Are there gluten-free options?
Yes, quite a few, including lamb cutlets or baked fish.
Is there wheelchair access?
To the ground floor, but the toilets are upstairs.