Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Gürsel Bahar, the chef & proprietor of Hanedan, July 2006
Hanedan opened in June 2004, yet it was imprinted in my head even before that. You see, it was exactly on my route from home to my regular breakfast-coffee place, Peckhams on South Clark Street, so I was passing it pretty much daily. Also, as I shared a flat with a Turkish girl at the time, a sign announcing "A Turkish restaurant opening soon" simply caught my eye. Quite soon afterwards, I realised that the chef enjoyed his morning coffee at Peckhams on a regular basis, too, and we began exchanging hellos and engaging in small talk. I found out that Gürsel had lived & worked in London for 16 years, where he worked 9 years with Sir Terence Conran at his Quaglino's Restaurant in St James. But as his wife was Scottish, it was inevitable that they'd move back to her homeland at one point.
Few months after befriending the chef over my breakfast coffee, I decided to pay his new eaterie a visit. I liked the food, and alongside with my other local restaurant, the Jamaican Coyaba, it quickly became my regular haunt. It was there that I took my parents, sister and nephew to celebrate my graduation last summer. I've had numerous meals there since, most recently last Saturday with my friends Michael & Emma. Hanedan has a lovely and inviting atmosphere, being obviously popular both with local Southsiders, as well as others, and it's always a pleasure to go back.
The first few times I opted for the mixed meze starter, lalezar (£6.75 per person), consisting of humuz (pureed chickpeas with sesame oil and lemon juice), herkez bayildi (roast aubergine, onion, tomato sauce and herbs), barbunya pilaki (olive oil braised red kidney beans), ispanakli yogurt (strained yogurt and spinach with garlic, served with a delicious pinch of sumac on top), firin kofte (oven baked mincd meat balls) and yaprak dolma (stuffed wine leaves). But the chef was 'complaining' that I'm not giving his other, 'proper' dishes a chance, so some time last autumn I 'upgraded' and began ordering mezes as well as main courses. I've never had to regret that, as the food has always been delicious, flavoursome and filling, and the service efficient and friendly (which cannot be said about another well-established Turkish restaurant in town, which I've stopped visiting since a rather unpleasant encounter in August).
If I am allowed to grumble just a little, then it's the limited choice of mains for vegetarians - Biberli makarna (pasta, red pepper sauce & feta cheese, £6.90) and Sebzeli musakka (vegetable moussaka, £7.90). And it would be also nice for his regular customers if he'd occasionally change his two-course menu offer (£7.95). That said, however, there are plenty of vegetarian meze dishes to choose from, with ispanakli yogurt (£2.90), herkes bayildi (£ 3.20) and helim izgara (perfectly grilled haloumi cheese, £3.60) being my favourites. And the main dishes are reasonably priced, too. His kuzu shish (a substantial portion of marinated grilled lamb on skewer, £7.90) simply melts in your mouth - I've never had meat so moist and tender before. Apparently the 'secret' to this dish is 'gentle massage' (though the Chef has now shared his recipe for the rub mixture with me:) My other favourites are tavuk guvech (sauteed chicken with onion, mushroom and tomato, £7.50, on the left), and tavuk shish (marinated grilled chicken on skewer, £7.75).
There are some Turkish wines on the wine list, and Efes Pilsen is available. And their baklava (filo pastry with mixed nuts & honey syrup, £2.90) is mouthwatering, light and rich at the same time. Highly recommended, whether you're sipping Turkish apple tea or a strong Turkish coffee which is served in cheerful tiny cups. Or, if you're up for it, some raki. Or why not both...
I'll miss this place. But then I do have the secret recipes for some of Gürsel's dishes in my pocket now:)
Some useful Turkish phrases from their menu:
Bu aksham olmaz - Not tonight.
Bisiklet pompani alabilirmiyim? - May I borrow your bicycle pump?
Gunde bir paket sigara iciyorum - I smoke a packet a day*
Note that booking is pretty much essential during weekends - I've been turned away on many occasions.
41-42 West Preston Street
Edinburgh EH8 9PY
Tel. 0131 667 4242
Lunch 12-3pm, Dinner 5.30pm till late, closed on Monday
* Even if you do, don't try to lit your cigaret while in Hanedan. Like all other public drinking & eating venues in Scotland, it's been smoke-free since March 2006. Bliss!