Istanbul Kebab, Sunninghill
11:00 - 21:00 Sun to Thur
11:00 - 22:00 Fri to Sat
Price Range (p/p)
Medium | R100 - R300
Ever since I made a brief business trip to Turkey in 2018, I have been intrigued by the Turkish culture and food. Steeped in history and the melting pot where East meets West, Istanbul or Constantinople as it was called was the centre of the ancient world for hundreds of years. Turkish food reflects this merging of cultures and is neither European bland nor over spicy as expected in typical Eastern gourmet.
My first experience of Turkish cuisine came from searching for halaal food in not so Muslim friendly European cities like Rome, Paris and Hamburg. The Donner Kebab franchise having saved this meat starved traveler many a time.
Closer to home, there has been several Turkish restaurants and outlets that have graced the shores of South Africa. Thanks to government sponsored business incentives, there has been an influx of Turkish business people, schools and establishments in recent years.
Ala Turka and EatStanbul in Cape Town, Ottoman Palace at the Nizamiye Mosque in Midrand and Istanbul Kebab in Sunninghill are some of the more well-known places to savour the Turkish menu.
One thing you can be sure of, is that you will be served Turkish tea, apple flavoured if you so choose and there will always be a small piece of Turkish Delight to sweeten your mood. For me though I always start with the strong overpowering Turkish Coffee. Literally strong enough to make the spoon stand up straight all on its own in the elegant and intricate cup it is served in.
After months of lockdown and self-imposed restaurant exile, we decided to check out Istanbul Kebab in Sunninghill. This we found out is the new location of the business that had burnt down in Rivonia. It is part of a food court at the Sunninghill Village Shopping Centre. The interior décor is smart, bright and modern with a touch of ornate Turkish flair, brightly coloured lamps, shiny silver finishes and double volume windows reminiscent of their architecture. The key attraction though seems to be the shisha lounge which patrons had to wait to get in. Early evening on a Sunday, this place was surprisingly busy with about half the clientele being middle eastern foreigners.
The waitrons were attentive and efficient though they were lacking a little in advising on the menu. The food came quickly and although appeared slightly expensive on paper, the quantity of food catered for a full meal and then some for takeaway after. So in hindsight the cost of the meal was well worth it. We opted for the Mixed Plate for 2 to 3, a platter of chargrilled, chops, chicken, kebabs and thinly sliced beef. Accompanied by hummus, haydari (yoghurt and herbs), Ezme a tomato based dip sort of like fine kuchambar, salad, butter beans, nutty rice, chips and a basket of plain naan. Delicious with a capital D, nothing on the table was lacking. The hummus was excellent and we even ordered extra to take home.
A lot of Indian people tend to find middle eastern food too bland for the spicy Indian palate. I’m happy to say this was some of the tastiest middle eastern food we have eaten yet. The meat was cooked with that smokey charred depth and was flavourful all on it’s own.
Unfortunately, there was little space to try out the desserts, though they did look interesting and the Kunafa will warrant a second excursion. Our meal came to around R550 for 2 adults and a child . We did have enough to take home for another meal though. Were we 3 adults, this would have been just enough.
The restaurant also has a number of shelves with distinctly Turkish products. It’s kind of like the equivalent of finding a shop in Europe that sells Biltong or Mrs. Balls chutney to cater for the homesick South African. Pastas, sauces, chocolates, Turkish delights and those famous Turkish tea and coffee sets.
This is a meal you want to eat slowly, with friends and lots of time to digest and enjoy without interruption, deadlines or schedules. And if it is your thing, puff the time away with a hooka.
Istanbul Kebab has a sister restaurant in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.
Reviewed by Zulfikar Umar