Dining at Safran is something of an education. Most Turkish food we’re familiar with is “fast food” like köfte, döner and gözleme, or renowned Turkish sweets like baklava and turkish delight. You’re in for so much more at Safran …
Turkish cuisine retains influences of the Ottoman Empire, being a delicate and refined fusion of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cooking styles.
It’s a common mistake to assume that Turkish food is hot and spicy. While spices, along with herbs, are certainly a feature of Turkish cooking, at it’s best it’s an exquisite blend of subtle flavours. Paprika, cumin, garlic, mint, oregano and parsley are used with a diverse range of meats and vegetables, nuts and dried fruits to create mouth-watering dishes alive with fresh flavours.
Safran is the “real deal” when it comes to world class Turkish food – you can pour a glass of Raki, Turkey’s anise-flavoured aperitif, and feast on some of the best meze dishes this side of Istanbul. Preferably as the Turkish do, sharing the dishes among friends and family.
But Safran shouldn’t be thought of as simply a cultural food experience, as it more than stands its ground as a fine dining restaurant. The a la carte menu cleverly combines flavours and techniques from Turkey to create dishes that are the very definition of Modern Australian cuisine.
At the helm of Safran is Süleyman (Sulo) Kirbancioglu and his wife Natalie. Sulo was raised in Mengen, a town halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, on the Black Sea. An interesting fact about Mengen is that there aren’t that many good restaurants … But not for the reasons you may think – Mengen is famous for training the best chefs in Turkey and they’re quickly snapped up for positions with the finest hotels in Turkey and abroad.
Sulo gained a reputation quickly, working in Istanbul’s best restaurants for 15 years. Like so many other Mengen-trained chefs, he was then lured away with an offer to cook abroad. Work brought him to Sydney, where he met wife Natalie.
The couple relocated to the Central Coast after a few months spent together in Turkey. It was only meant to be a refuel with Natalie’s family before heading back to Sydney, but the Peninsula’s lifestyle suited the couple and they stayed.
Sulo commuted for a short time before the opportunity arose for he and Natalie to purchase Umina café, 304 on West. After seven successful years in Umina, which included extremely popular Turkish Nights, the couple were ready to take on a venture that would allow Sulo’s talent to shine.
Safran opened.in 2013 and, within a year, had been awarded “Best New Restaurant in the Hunter and Central Coast Regions” by the Restaurant and Catering Savour Awards.
Safran has since gone from strength to strength as Sulo and Natalie have refined the menu, which changes regularly depending on ingredients available, and the whims of the Head Chef.
Sulo has assembled an impressive staff in the kitchen, with two fellow Turkish chefs under him, and weekly trips to Auburn stock the restaurant with the best of Turkish produce. Fabulous, local ingredients are also used in the kitchen.
Not surprisingly, word is getting out, and it’s difficult to get a booking at late notice on a Saturday night. The good news for all of us is that Saffran is open from Wednesday to Sunday, so there’s plenty of opportunity to savour the unique and distinct flavours of Turkey, prepared by one of the world’s best.
Ettalong Markets Tourist Resort 81/189 Ocean View Road Ettalong Beach NSW 2257 Ph: (02) 4342 7030 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Open from: 6pm Wednesday to Sunday for dinner and from 11.30am Saturday and Sunday for lunch. Find us on the bottom level off Schnapper Road.