Nemrut, Southsea

Published on Friday 12 August 2005 18:06 (From the Portsmouth News)


YOU CAN'T miss Nemrut, a newish Kurdish-Turkish restaurant on Albert Road in Southsea, thanks to its distinctive large lettering above the small 30-seater eaterie.

And, if passing on a wet and windy night, you won't be able to resist the long waist-high grill's glowing charcoal embers and the sparklingly spruce, welcoming ocak basi (seating around the grill) visible through the plate glass.

Quiet swooning, swooping violin music of the country greets you on entering the small but perfectly-formed restaurant, with its pale grey walls, plants and prints of vases, figs and grapes on a background of cypresses.

Purely by chance, I discovered Nemrut offers lunch for a fiver which includes a plate of pickles, olives, bread, main course, coffee or tea. Others who clearly know a thing or two about the happenings on Albert Road were enjoying a high old time.

Aubergine and lamb dishes, moussaka and a mushroom dish with tomato and cheese sauce are among the excellent choices. If you come for supper, that grill, the Mangal, will be full-on for the likes of tavuk Kanadi (spicy chicken wings), sebze kebab (marinated Mediterranean vegetables), tavuk shish (skewered chicken), uykuluk (skewered sweetbreads) and lots of lamb in many Kurdish-Turkish guises.

Prices are uber-low with meze at 2.25 and mains at around the 6-8 mark. In this day and age this is a steal.

Warm, moreish pide bread and those olives plus pickled carrots, chillies and cucumber were my first glimpse of what Nemrut offers, not only in well-sourced ingredients but in first class hospitality. Service by the owner's uncle is charmingly delightful.

My aubergine, lamb mince and subtly-spiced main course couldn't have been bettered, the perfectly-presented stuffed aubergine with strips of red and green pepper and roasted tomato served with rice and plain yoghurt.

If you are keen to test the kitchen's prowess with desserts at lunchtimes, you may be out of luck as they only officially appear in the evening. But I persuaded the ever-hospitable uncle to let me try Incir Tatlisi, figs cooked in syrup with a small hat of cream and a dash of pistachios and walnuts.

What a fitting end to a Mediterranean meal it was. The cream was more like whipped egg white, but this suited me fine as it cut the richness of the syrupy figs.

Turkish coffee, one of the best in the area, came with the essential glass of water and the non-essential Turkish delight and, in true Kurdish-Turkish style, an on-the-house glass of rose-perfumed, high-octane liqueur.

Be prepared too for a cleansing sprinkling of cologne (from a cut glass bottle) on the hands after your meal, administered by said uncle. How delightful is that? Simple, old world courtesies of chaleur, that untranslatable French word meaning a more generous warmth, just kept on coming.

Nemrut is an oasis of calm in a frenetic world and you will be all the better after a visit to this charming, graceful, excellent-value restaurant. And, if you're lucky, as I was, the owner will give you a fascinating insight into Kurdish politics. History on a plate.

My bill came to 10.25, including a good glass of Turkish wine. Tip extra.

Nemrut, 94a Albert Road, Southsea. (023) 9275 6777.

Open midday to midnight every day. (Now, open between 16.00 to midnight during weekdays )

Food: ****

Service: *****

Atmosphere: ****

Smoking: No.

Disabled access: Yes.