The first weekend of spring and the first bit of sunshine I've seen in ages has meant one thing in Vindaloo Queen's world- the quest for Holiday Food! By holiday food, I mean Mediterranean treats, be it tapas, pasta, Greek salad or falafel- stuff I like to eat on my travels as opposed to curry and Chinese. I seem to have been on an endless quest for decent, authentic Turkish food in the UK. After living in a Turkish community in Germany for over 5 years, plus immersing myself in the regional cuisine of Turkey, I guess I've been spoilt and have rather a critical eye when it comes to the price/portion size/authenticity ratio of what passes for Turkish cuisine in the UK. After noticing Turkish bistros springing up like mushrooms in the North West, I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Enter Alanya on Allerton Rd.
Alanya is a small eaterie that looks more like cafe than restaurant, with a lot of tables cramped into a small area so I was expecting the prices to reflect the spartan atmosphere. Last time I lived in Liverpool, this place was an estate agents, so I was curious to see if they made a miraculous Grand Designs style refurb. Its special offers were on display outside including the confusing banner proclaiming 'Lunch for £9.95 or £6.50'. I was there on a Sunday to take advantage of its seemingly generous 'all mains half price' offer. The restaurant was cosy inside with a warm welcome from the friendly staff, charcoal grill blazing and giving off an aromatic scent of kebabs, onions and basil. However, this didn't detract from the non-restauranty ambience of the place, and as I glanced at the menu, the price didn't reflect it either. £2.50 for a small bottle of water made me gasp, as did the prices of the hot drinks. These were also in the same price range of chic city centre watering holes like the Noble House and co. This food had better be good....
To start, the Carnivore and I shared 2 starters of halloumi and stuffed vine leaves, approx £4 each. The halloumi was delicious but only consisted of 4 skinny slices, the vine leaves evidently tinned ones sold in every inner city ethnic food store for £1.50 a tin. I should know, they formed my staple diet in my student days.
For the main, the Carnivore dined on a mixed kebab for £7 (half price, usually £14) and I had my old favourite, Imam Bayildi (half price at around £5.70). These were both served with rice, side salad, fried onions and Turkish bread. The Carnivore definitely won this battle of the dishes, the succulent chicken and lamb being excellent quality and good value for £7, however £14 would have been a bit steep. My imam bayildi was delicious, the aubergine succulent and a great blend of spices, however it didn't beat the one I devoured in 2006 in Istanbul's Aksaray district (words can't describe what a foodie adventure that trip was. Istanbul is like Ibiza for the tastebuds, a party in the mouth!) The side salad was fresh, crisp with a sweet, tangy dressing and the fried onions were a welcome change from the usual side orders. The onions were dressed in parsley and marinated in beetroot juice, a perfect combination of 3 very different ingredients. Dissapointingly, the rice tasted strongly of Uncle Ben and wasn't the Turkish Pilaf I was yearning for. Minus points there. The rice portion size was rather measly too and there was a notable absence of a potato-based accompaniment like roast potatoes or even chips as many of its competitors offer as standard. We left slightly hungry which was absurd for me, as someone who lived on Turkish food in Germany and never had an empty belly!
With a few tweaks, Alanya could be perfect- friendly staff and a huge target audience on the doorstep, but just a few small touches that it lacks will probably mean diners will default to nearby Christakis for a similar menu at a cheaper price. Even a chunk of Turkish Delight with the bill would maybe be enough to leave diners hungry for a return visit. The jury's still out on this one, I'm afraid.