Liz O’Reilly tucks into a meat feast second to none on a visit to Turkish speciality restaurant, Günaydin.
It’s been a while since I visited this hot spot in the heart of Adliya and there have certainly been some changes. What once was the smoking area is now the funky ORO Lounge and Günaydin itself has just installed a lovely outdoor dining area with twinkling lights and greenery that I can’t wait to visit once the temperatures drop a little more.
Inside, the décor is classic with twists. Chandeliers come in shades of glowing red, a fun spider-style lamp emits a muted glow and a wall of windows allows plenty of natural light to enter while comfy velvet-clad seating invites you to linger over numerous sharing plates.
Inside the door a cabinet displays the dry aged meats for which the restaurant is, rightly, famed and an open kitchen allows a glimpse of the culinary magic in progress.
We take our seats at a table laid with crisp white linens and black/gray ceramics brought from Türkiye, and the Turkish bread definitely makes a dramatic entrance. Puffed up and tiger patterned, it is a sight to behold. And, liberally sprinkled with sesame seeds, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the array of mezzes that soon arrives at our table.
Our hosts are generous and the selection is versatile. I love the very nature of mezze, where you can try a little (or a lot) of multiple dishes – it’s a great way to learn about regional flavours and find your particular favourites.
For me, that favourite is almost always going to be something with eggplant. So, it’s no surprise that I’m immediately attracted to the Atom, which is sun-dried spicy Turkish chilli with butter sauce on garlic- and eggplant-infused strained yoghurt. Initially cool and flavoursome, don’t be fooled, the gentle yoghurt creaminess gives way to an intense chilli hit that leaves a satisfying heat on the tongue.
An eggplant sauce, loaded with potato and green peppers is another great option, the flavour mix perfectly teased by the sesame bread. And a spicy tomato dip with pepper and onions has all of us going back for more as does the Muhammara, which is another personal favourite. Deeply tomatoey with the crunch of crushed walnuts and the piquancy of garlic and spices it’s a satisfying blend of tastes and textures.
I believe the ability to create a good hummus is always the test of a kitchen. The simplest things can sometimes be the most difficult, right? But, Gunaydin has it down to a fine art. Creamy and smooth while still decidedly moreish, it’s the type of bowl one could eat all afternoon and is a great foil to the other dishes on offer.
Our mezzes are accompanied by two salads – the avocado bowl resplendent with vivid jewels of pomegranate and coated in a homemade avocado sauce. A special mention must go to the Tulum Salad which features Tulum cheese from Türkiye. A creamy, salty goat’s milk cheese that is ripened in a goatskin casing, the melt-on-the-tongue texture coupled with the unique flavour makes a huge and positive impression.
The mains begin to arrive and I realise I have, in fact, landed in carnivore heaven. The Mixed Grill is huge with an array of meats prepared in several different ways.
Adana kebabs, redolent with cumin, coriander and chilli, offer a well-considered, satisfying bite while small lamb cubes, steeped in spices, are a definite favourite on our table with everyone commenting on their piquancy. I particularly love the lamb chops, their charred outer giving way to tender pink meat running with delicious juices, and the shish tawook (chicken) is a perfect example of the universal dish we all love, the yoghurt and spice marination having rendered the meat wonderfully succulent and bursting with flavour.
In front of our table a chef puts on a show – literally flaming a large rib-eye in a spectacular display, the tongues of fire caressing the meat, cooking it to a flawless medium-rare. The chef then slices the flesh, its consistency that of butter, beautifully yielding while the fat is delicately browned and crispy. The mouth experience tells of the quality of the cut and we are momentarily silent.
Next up is the Günaydin Special, the Lokum Beef Fillet, USDA-certified Angus exclusive to Günaydin. Served as small, thin medallions on a skillet with clarified butter and slices of toasted bread, this is my favourite dish so far. The savoury butter, salty, herby and rich, is so tempting that I cannot stop dipping the toast even as my knife is gliding through the excellent meat. Tender, gamey and slightly smoky, the flavour is strong and satisfying and I would return for this dish alone.
To accompany the meats, we’re served pots of French fries. But these are no ordinary chips and are deserving of a mention all to themselves. With the skins partially left on and at least triple fried, a faint dusting of paprika gives a wonderful tanginess to go along with the crispy exterior and heavenly fluffy interior, rendering them potato perfection – I even take some home!
By this stage, we are more than replete and we take some time to enjoy a selection of mocktails as a digestive before turning on our dessert stomachs – you know, that weird phenomenon that means there’s always room for something sweet. From passion fruit with lime and basil leaves, to apple and cinnamon, and fresh grapefruit with rosemary and lemon – the drinks are imaginative and fun and, I’m heartened to hear, are all made with fresh whole ingredients, no syrups other than sugar. My favourite is both sharp and sweet, prettily pink with raspberries, pineapple and lemon – simply delicious.
And so, to desserts. A waiter takes great delight in preparing the Simit Katmer – traditional phyllo dough filled with ground pistachio and folded into a roll around authentic Turkish ice cream that’s made in house. Oil from the nuts imparts a unique flavour to the dough, slightly earthy and excellently offset by the sweet creaminess of the ice cream.
Another standout for me is the Kunafa, without which no visit to a Turkish restaurant would be complete. Thin, crisp, buttery phyllo and crunchy vermicelli soaked in sugar syrup encasing an inner of warm Hatay cheese, much loved for the stringy, melting quality that makes it ideal for this dish. My dining companion and I almost come to blows over the last spoonful, it really is that good. All the more reason for a return visit and I don’t doubt we’ll be back. ✤
GO: CALL 1700 0099 FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO MAKE A RESERVATION.