I dream of rain,
I dream of gardens in the desert sand,
I wake in pain,
I dream of love as time runs through my hand,
I dream of fire,
These dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire,
And in the flames,
Her shadows play in the shape of a man’s desire,
This desert rose,
Each of her veils, a secret promise,
Desert Rose lyrics – Sting featuring Cheb Mami
To fully understand the atmosphere that I am trying to convey to you, you need to go and listen to this song on YouTube. Particularly Cheb Mami’s parts (the bits not in English). Watch the lyric video rather than the official music video. The official video doesn’t make sense. Why not film it in the desert? Why are you in the club? I thought the desert rose was a woman from a desert nation. Why… You know what, I digress.
A’la Turka was an experience. Their website says as much, but I was sceptical. I am now a true believer. It was an immersion into a different culture. It felt like I was walking through a city street in the Middle East. The rose water drink upon arrival, sheer jewel-toned drapery hanging off the walls and across corridors. The large, fluffy, embroidered cushions scattered everywhere. Even the low lying seating to emulate the décor traditions of the area.
When making a reservation, there are a few options. You can book a private room that comes with low cushion-filled seating around an equally low table. The other options are normal tables and chairs in the general dining area, or beds. Yes you read correct, beds. Obviously we went for the bed option. We wanted to get as authentic a feel as possible. It was awesome- four-poster, canopy beds with the scarves and silks placed across the top and organza wrapped around the posts. Truly delightful – except for the fact that the Lord did not create me such that I can sit cross-legged for long periods of time. So after a while (read 10minutes) I was over the beds and staring longingly at all the people with the foresight to book a table.The other members of my party did not share the same sentiment however, and fully enjoyed the bed experience. Someone even fell asleep… Though I would still recommend one of the other seating options if your party is greater than 4 people.
The touch I enjoyed the most about the beds was the pressed metal serving dishes that were placed in the centres of the beds. They did limit the seating space available, but it was so aesthetically pleasing that it was overlooked.
The food was delicious. A true mix of Lebanese and Turkish food with a hint of Greek. We had the falafel as a quick starter. It was sublime; and the tzatziki it was served with was transformative. I dipped everything in it. The clean taste of yoghurt with a subtle zing of lemon and mint and the crunch of the cucumber. I was hooked. The lamb kletiko was a shank that was perfectly done and falling off the bone.
The grilled Kofte were a spicy, minced beef, sausage shaped treats which were flavourful and surprisingly juicy. Word to the wise, the portion sizes here at A’la Turka did not come to play. Initially we wanted to order from one of the set menus, but the food amount looked too overwhelming; not to mention the prices. We opted for the mains, but the food amount there when it finally arrived, was equally daunting. The mixed kebab for one can feed a small country. The meat on the dish was great though. Lamb and chicken kebabs and pilaf rice with doner, which is thin slices of marinated lamb, were all done to perfection. The food lived up to the hype. The presentation was a bit lacking, but that can be attributed to the amount of food on the plate.
A small blemish to the evening was the serving staff; who were either too harried and didn’t have enough time to answer questions satisfactorily, or too inexperienced and couldn’t answer your questions at all. Alcohol is served at the restaurant, with not too many signature cocktails on the menu, but boasting an extensive list of wines, spirits and beers. Each meal also has a wine pairing suggested as an accompaniment. To add a bit of flare to the evening, entertainment was also provided (it appears on your bill later, as an extra surprise). About 5 or 6 belly dancers entertained at various parts of the room. They danced with fire, with swords with elaborate candelabra on their heads.
Truly a talented and entertaining display. The evening was wonderful and even though it rained heavily throughout, it felt like an evening in the desert sands, walking along the dunes, under the infinite stars.
Food: 4/5 (points deducted for presentation)
Drinks: Not scored
Price: R600 approx. for 2 people (Compulsory R30pp extra for entertainment)
By Dora Clark