First we had Suan I-San in 2008. Next we had Prasits in 2010. Things became a little hopeful in 2013 with Nixie Ocean Seafood Restaurant. After a few months it closed and re-opened as rock ‘n roll themed Tummy Rumble Restaurant yet within a few weeks things went pear-shaped and, it too, closed its doors.
480 King Street may be a great space for a restaurant but somehow the address has developed a shelf life, of sorts.
A bit of action had been taking place since Tummy Rumble packed its Elvis tunes and left town. Something else has opened; something that just may survive the curse of 480 King Street.
One of the first things passers-by see at Yeniköy is a cabinet filled with delectable Turkish pastries. And anyone that’s familiar with Gaziantep Sweets & Pastry in Auburn may sense some dèjá vu when they take their first syrup-soaked bite. Aussie born Zeki Atilgan established Gaziantep back in 2000 and now he’s added a restaurant to his repertoire.
Yeniköy is Turkish for “new village” so it’s a pretty fitting name for Newtown’s newest restaurant. Wood furniture, stone panelling, lanterns, Edison light globes and outdoor benches make for a comfy place to sit and get stuck into a dinner menu that’s mostly Turkish; with a bunch of Mod Oz additions to mix it up a tad.
Here’s a line-up of dishes we’ve tried over three visits.
Our first dinner visit started off with meyhane sofrası (22) – a nibble-fest of spiced olives, pickled vegetables, a crumbly Tulum goat cheese, beautiful muhammara and fanned slices of goat cheese and pastırma. Some Turkish bread comes with it.
The first of the mains was grilled lamb rack (28) with herbed butter and twice smoked potatoes. Whilst the lamb was perfectly medium-rare, I’m not entirely sure where the smoke came into effect with the spuds. They seemed like regular roast potatoes to me, with not a hint of smoke. A Turkish spoon salad comes on the side.
I adored the char-grilled quails (25) – served over apricot rice that softly sizzles on a hot iron skillet. Juicy meat, buttery herbed apple & red wine sauce and a hint of chilli bite in there. Loved the crispy bits of rice that were stuck to the skillet.
We’re intrigued by the ocean rolls (21) description of “organic shaved pastry” filled with pan-fried calamari, sautéed vegetables and herbs. In reality it seems like your regular pide, filled with tender rings of squid and vegetables with tomato. Pity the promised garlic yoghurt sauce was a no-show; something I realised after we left.
We loved the ali nazik (29), a tagine filled with tiny pieces of lamb cooked with spiced vegetables. The winning element had to be the strips of smokey eggplant lurking beneath; permeating through the other ingredients with a final cooling from a generous drizzle of yoghurt.
The karniyarik (24) is served in a piping hot terracotta dish, served unlike any I’ve previously seen. The regular variety involves stuffing the eggplant with a savoury mince, of sorts, but here we have thick strips of eggplant smothered in a spiced vegetable and lamb mince. Tasty, generous and quite heavy on the oil.
There wasn’t a great deal of room for dessert but owner Zeki insisted we sample some of his sticky sweets on the house. Chocolate hazelnut baklava, pistachio baklava and little cigars that instantly ramped our energy with a sugary jolt.
The Yeniköy menu during the day comes with an entirely new list of edibles. There’s a set breakfast (minimum 3 people) that’s pretty much a feast that brings the likes of sucuk, olives, cheeses, bread, borek, muhammara, baked eggs, fruit and unlimited Turkish bread and tea. Pity we didn’t have a third party.
Other brekkie choices are sigara borek, gözleme and a couple of egg dishes. A complimentary plate of olives, stringy dil peyniri cheese and double cheese poğaça rolls was given to us because our choices weren’t available. I’ve got to say, customer relations are paramount here as they still find their feet.
A relatively oil-free gözleme (12) keeps the better half happy with its spinach and cheese filling as I tuck into my kıymalı yumurta (15) with fervour. Anyone with a soft spot for savoury mince, as I do, would probably scoff this dish down as fast as I did. Traditionally the eggs are baked into the beautifully spiced minced beef, but here it’s lovingly draped with still-runny fried eggs. Adored it. The only let-down was the dry toasted sliced white bread that came with it. Turkish bread would have been much more fitting.
The lunch menu is all about burgers with a slight Turkish accent, gözleme and skewers of grilled chicken. When these guys get right into swing over the coming weeks, we’re told to expect to see the charcoal grill in action as well as a chocolate bar and even fresh waffles.