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Ala Turka – Irene Mall

The Ala Turka restaurant in the Irene mall specialises in Turkish/Lebanese/Greek cuisine. It opened up a few months ago and we had been threatening to go there for some time now.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated and very neatly laid out. You can choose to have a regular table or you can be seated in the traditional benches. Because of my wife’s buckled back, we opted for the regular table and chairs.

The first thing I noticed about this restaurant was on the menu, there are automatic charges for ‘entertainment’ and meal sharing. They also charge you extra for pita breads, which I found comically suprising. However, we ordered our drinks – a lebanese beer and a rose water – very authentic, we thought!

From here on in it went south. Our waitress, Faith, who would be ‘looking after us’ did the first of her frequent disappearing acts. We had been ready to place our orders for a full 10 minutes before eventually one of the managers asked if we needed assistance with anything. Informing her that we would like to order food, she (correctly) said she could take the order for us. Faith then suddenly appeared and stood like a lemon behind the manageress while she took our order.

The manageress was able to advise and suggest authentic dishes, which is nice because if you are not used to the menu, then it might be a bit daunting. So it is well worth asking for recommendations.

It has to be said that the food that was served to us last night was indeed devine. It is evident that the management puts a high priority on the presentation and the quality of their food. The chef was clearly brimming with pride as he presented our meal to us. 

One piece of advice would be – Go Hungry! The starter platter for one is almost a complete meal in itself. As tempting as it is, try not to stuff yourself with pita bread as you will have no room for the main meals and really, that is where quality of the meal comes through. Maybe that is why they charge you for pita breads – to try and discourage you from ordering!

We had to hunt our waitress down to order drinks and never at any point were the empty glasses removed. She also paid little attention to whether we were enjoying our meal or whether we required anything else. 

We ordered the Adana & the Doner Kebabs as main meals. The Doner was the recommendation of the manageress. Both meals were served on a platter together, so that we could share (funnily we were not charged for that). The presentation of the meal was fantastic. The attention to detail in making the dish as attractive as possible was impressive. 

As I have said, the quality of the food was superb. The Adana kebab is made from ground lamb, pistachio nuts, herbs and spices all blended together and then grilled. It had a really strong, full flavour that is well balanced by the yoghurt and grilled vegatables it is served with. The Doner kebab consisted of delicately cooked slices of beef and lamb presented on a bed of pita bread. My description does it no justice, as the presentation and the flavour was fantastic.

We were unable to finish the meal. In fact it looked as if we had hardly touched it. there was no problem in requesting to take it away – so we did. We rounded the meal off with some delectable Turkish delights and some wonderful Turkish coffee.

My wife and I discussed whether we would return to the restaurant. It is just along the road from us and it does offer fantastic cuisine but there were some factors that left the overall experience a bit negative as a whole and would make us think twice about it.

1 – Never automatically charge for service if you do not have the complete confidence in your staff. I cannot believe for one second that the decision to automatically charge for service was based upon the quality of the staff they have. Maybe we had the bad apple, but it left a sour taste to unconditionally pay for  very poor service

2 – It is not a cheap restaurant. R100+ for a main meal average. This is not a bad thing necessarily – I am a firm believer of you get what you pay for. The food, decor and ambience of the restaurant does not suggest that it should be cheaper, but do you really have to put on an additional ‘entertainment charge’ on top of that? The entertainment by the way was belly & fire dancing that we saw very little of as we were situated downstairs near the entrance. Ocean Basket in the same mall offers similar entertainment for free.

3 – Incorrect bill. Nothing more annoys me than a waiter stuffing up the bill. For me it is embarrassing and completely unnecessary to have to challenge a bill in a restaurant.

With all the effort that the manageress and the chef put into the experience, I would have thought that when we left we would have been asked whether we enjoyed the meal. Unfortunately we were not – we were just thanked and not afforded the opportunity to express the above concerns.

Rating:

Decor & Ambience – 4/5

Food – 4/5

Service – 2/5

Value – 3/5

Overall Experience : 3/5

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