AUBERGINE, KALKAN TURKEY
Published: September 2008
Nearly 10 years on and 3 times lucky, I returned to my favourite Turkish resort. Back in ‘99 when I first visited, Kalkan was a tiny smudge on the map, squeezing itself out of a sleepy cocoon to emerge as a fully fledged resort. It’s good to be able to report that though the small fishing village has sprawled to encompass much of the surrounding bay, at its heart Kalkan has maintained a sense of proportion. The tiny warren of small cobbled streets that slope fairly steeply down to the marina is still the heart of the place, and continues to deliver on its promises. And that is to be a resort a cut above the rest offering a relaxed ambience and excellent eating. There are no garish signs here trumpeting bargain English breakfasts and all things involving chips. Kalkan has a significant amount of stylish, quality restaurants that are admittedly more pricey than what you’ll find elsewhere along this coast. Many of them are down by the marina or fantastically situated on rooftops with 360° vistas of the bay.
Aubergine is harbourside, one of a swill of restaurants that overlook the fishing boat bobbing waters. But more importantly, it is one of the longest established (founded in ’96) and pretty well rammed come 9 ‘o clock in season when trendier neighbours are still hawking for punters. It’s a pleasant spot; a paved garden of lit palms, with colonial style dark wooden chairs and tables, touches of rattan and soft cream upholstery. And there’s magic to be found sitting under the stars, the sound of waves in the distance.
The name is inspired by one of my favourite Turkish gastronomic anecdotes. An imam was once presented by his wife with a dish of baked aubergine, onions, garlic, tomatoes and sweet peppers. The shock of the cost of such a dish was too much for the poor imam who promptly collapsed; ever since the dish has been known as Imam Bayıldı or The Imam Fainted.
Of course, the menu features the eponymous aubergine and a staggering amount of choice; 46 main courses alone which of course immediately set my early warning system off. Who could possibly hope to pull off such a volume of options successfully? So I’ll say straight away this is not haute cuisine, nothing flashy, just popular standards. And yes, chef and owner Mehmet Bilgiç does a good job.
The menu is split 15% Turkish and 85% Mediterranean. The starters are a splish splash of Mediterranean fare in the main; prawn cocktail up against houmus, Greek salad vying with moussaka. Prices are from 8,90TL. Mains are all from around 20TL and are a huge grab bag of pasta, stroganoff, racks of lamb, chops, duck, and fish from grouper to sea bass.
My cold meze starter would have been fine for 3 people; a huge plate of tzatziki, houmus, aubergine salad, tomato salsa, prawn cocktail, horseradish leaves, pesto and chilli sauce. It would make a great lunch dish for sharing, and was in keeping with the huge servings one finds in Kalkan. My parents were with me and opted for light dishes but ended up with a mound of pasta with chicken and six sizeable Turkish meatballs with all the grilled accoutrements that left my father red faced and struggling to finish. He failed.
My main was a duck fillet in mulberry, balsamic, and red wine jus with garden vegetables, and dangerous though I know it was to plump for my favourite meat which I’m very particular about, the duck arrived as pink as perfection.
Dessert wasn’t an option but there are 27 to choose from; Black Forest gateaux, crème caramel, profiteroles, tiramisu, ice creams, and of course baklava – all from 8,90TL.
I must stress that unlike most of the eateries I review on this page there was little innovative or surprising about the menu at Aubergine, though the surprise was that they managed to pull it off with such solid results. Well, popularity says it all and I recommend a visit.
AUBERGINE, KALKAN TURKEY
Gareth has been with TRAVEL CHANNEL since its launch in 1994. He has produced and presented on TRAVEL LIVE and THE TRAVEL BUG, produced ESSENTIAL... and reports on TRAVEL TODAY. He is a regular contributor to the website. In 2010 he produced the hit series THE HOLIDAY SHOW which he also co-presented with Ginny Buckley. Gareth’s passions are history, culture, food & drink.
To find out more about Aubergine