Black Sea pancake with figs, walnuts & grape molasses
I have had the best day.
Woke up late (for me anyway), had a nice chat to the people at Polka Dot Cookies before meeting Tia Bicky and jumping on two buses to reach Balmain for our 11am booking for Let’s Do Brunch at Efendy.
Wow.The team at Efendy put on an amazing breakfast that won me over in so many ways. The food was delicious, beautifully presented and provided Bicky and I enough sustenance to shop, shop, shop until 5pm.
Although it didn’t seem to be listed on the drinks menu, my request for a cup of sahlep (orchid milk) was quickly fulfilled and served in a pretty hug mug, dusted liberally with cinnamon. In April 2006, one month before I started writing this blog, I spent six lovely days in Istanbul with my sister Stinky. We had such a wonderful time and one particularly evocative aspect of our holiday was the delicious food we experienced.Ah, the memories of Istanbul were coming back.
As the Efendy waiters started to deliver our breakfast mezes, I was transported to our daily breakfast in Istanbul: slices of tomato, cucumber, olives and lightly salted cheese. In fact I ate so much salty cheese in Istanbul that I even remember the Turkish word for cheese (peynirli in case you’re wondering).
These meze could have been identical, except the quality at Efendy was much higher and included some crispy peynirli börek, cigar-shaped rolls of filo stuffed with cheese.
Turkish bread came warm with two sides of sweet preserves. The first was one of my all time favourites, sour cherries (I remember this word too: vişne) and the rich Tahini Pekmez, an exotic blend of grape molasses and sesame paste that's truly delicious. I know I’m going to buy grape molasses just so I can make this and eat it on toast in the mornings.
Triangles of feta were simply superb. The best feta I’ve had in a long time. They were hard, dense and crumbly under the fork but melted into creaminess once you gobbled it up. The flavour was intense, just the way I like it, and I learnt the chef imports this cheese (organic and 80% cows milk) direct from Turkey.
Bicky, who has a cholesterol problem and hasn’t been eating cheese for months, couldn’t help herself after she tasted this feta!
Out came the main courses next. There were five options to choose from and Bicky and I finally selected two to share between us.
Kıymalı was like an egg dish with flecks of lamb meat, capsicum and tomato. It was a homely, hearty version of scrambled eggs, listed on the Efendy menu as “village style eggs”. It was soft and warming, a good defence against the traitorous spring weather, which was sunny but bitingly cold with an icy wind.
Our sweet course was the Incirli Kaygana, which the menu describes as a Black Sea style pancake. It’s thick and eggy. It was topped with perfectly balanced red grape syrup that wasn’t oversweet, crumbs of walnuts and sliced figs softened by the syrup. Mmmmm.
Bicky, always thinking back to her Mexican context, likened it to a Turkish flan.
We finished our pancake off with a glass of soothing, warm apple tea. I have to say I love the stuff, even if I do recall elma çay being more popular with tourists than the Turks.
The other options included Menemen (scrambled eggs, tomato, banana pepper, onion and parsley); Hellim (poached eggs, grilled halloumi, asparagus & tomatoes ); or Kallavi (2 fried eggs, grilled plate of sucuk sausages, mushroom, tomato & pastırma).
I have heard so many good things about Efendy since it opened in 2007 and now I’m kicking myself that I hadn’t visited sooner. There’s so much more I want to try from the breakfast, al a carte and meze menus (they serve çilbir, çökertme kebabı and dondurma). I need to bring Jonas to experience it too!
When I got home this evening and began to write about my delicious meal, I had questions about some of the thing I’d eaten. I called Efendy and owner/chef Somer Sivrioglu came over to the phone. He was so warm and generous, more than happy to talk about his food and how it was prepared. Not only is he a star in the kitchen, but he seems like a lovely guy.
No wonder the word efendi means gentleman in Turkish.
Visiting this restaurant has made me remember how much I loved Turkish food during my time in Istanbul. I will be back to Efendy.