3 September 2011

Dining in many parts of Turkey is a vastly different experience for me. The food is great and the service most attentive. Great value for money. I’ve had some wonderful soups, mezze platters and kebaps. But there is a different emphasis on the dining experience.

My experiences have made me wonder if the Michelin way of determining great restaurants is potentially flawed, perhaps even encouraging snob value over value for money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve dined at some Michelin star restaurants and they have been great experiences. The attention to detail is apparent. Everything is just right. But does it need to be so right?

A quick Google search did not reveal any Michelin star restaurants in Turkey although there may be some. Or at least there should be.

I dined at a superb restaurant in Mardin (Cercis Murat Konagi – this place had everything I would ever need from a restaurant).

And another in Gaziantep. It was rated highly by Trip Advisor. And I was not disappointed. The food was excellent and complimented by perhaps the finest pistachio baclava going.

But this restaurant did not serve alchohol. Many in Turkey don’t. They were even scarcer during Ramadan. Accordingly there is an apparent emphasis on quick service, great food, in and out quick so the next diner can have your seat/table.

Why bother to have diner’s linger if they are not drinking expensive wines? Much better off getting someone else in to spend their money on the food.

Now I like a nice wine with my dinner, but, as I have learned in Turkey, this is not an essential part of enjoying a meal.

Nor is the decor.

It was interesting to read the Trip Advisor reviews of Imam Cagdas, my restaurant of choice, and highy recommended. Some claimed it looked like a high school cafeteria and seemed taken aback by this.

And this is not a bad description of the place. But it did not detract from the quality of the food – it was packed from late afternoon. In some ways it added to the charm of the place. And the baclava was of world class. I think my meal was over and I was paying this bill within 25 minutes of sitting down. It’s amazing how reasonably priced a meal is when you do not have the cost of alcohol added to the bill. Water is not expensive. I was completely satisfied and my wallet was lighter by less than 15 euros.

This gets my star.

In the morning I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at Anadolou Evleri and I shared with Tim my immediate travel plans while chatting about my Turkey motorcycle tour adventures. He suggest a couple of alternative routes. First going north. Then when I head west again following the coast sooner than my original route.

The first suggestion proved spot on and I had a much shorter and more enjoyable ride than I had prepared myself for.

But nothing could prepare me for the absolutely incredible, utterly natural, timeless imagery that indulged me on arriving in Göreme.  This Turkey motorcycle tour just keeps delivering – what a country!

Distance travelled today 263 miles (423km), cumulative 5,681 miles (9,143km).