Empires Turkish ’emporium’

I had been wanting to visit Empires, a lovely looking Turkish Restaurant in the Old Town for ages as it has often been recommended to me. Strawberry Blonde had just flown back from her holidays so it seemed like an ideal place to go for a jolly good catch up.

Luckily I had taken a sneaky peek online earlier in the day and discovered that they are a BYO (Bring Your Own) premises and also that they only accept cash. (although they did call SB back confirming and also letting her know about the wine/cash policies).

Beautiful & eclectic decor

On walking in to the restaurant you are instantly transported back to Istanbul (well at least SB was, I’ve never been!) but it is simply beautiful and evocative with coloured glass lights, religious iconery, cushions and rugs and lots of wood. You really feel like you’re somewhere special. Being the first ones in we also had the best seat in the house, a lovely round one in the window in between the two dining levels.

The menu is pretty easy to navigate and was explained to us by a very personable waiter. They have a number of special options and recommended on a first visit is the Special Meze Platter, a choice of five meze served with warm bread and salad. Other options include a mixture of Meze & Main Courses. Being ‘newbies’ we were more than happy to try the recommended mixed platter (£15.95 pp) and set about choosing our 10 dishes.

We consciously decided, with the exception of the Halloumi, not to go for all the more obvious dishes and ended up with Keremit Kofte – beef & herb meatballs, oven baked in rich tomato sauce, Feta Peppers – baby Mediterranean peppers stuffed with feta cheese, Chicken Cop sis – cubes of chicken with lemon, olive oil & oregano, Sucuk – delicious air-dried Turkish garlic sausage, Tarator – crushed walnuts with virgin olive oil, lemon & spices, Musakka – succulent layers of aubergine, courgette, tomato & potato, Muska Borek – lightly baked spinach, feta & onion pastries and Green Beans.

The Meze arrived on two large patterned dishes and we couldn’t wait to tuck in. The sausage was indeed delicious and the crushed walnuts were a winner, the stuffed chillis and green beans were also very tasty. Unfortunately all the dishes we had ordered were a little on the dry side and really needed balancing with something moist and tangy so we ordered a yoghurt and cucumber dip.

We really enjoyed the low key buzz of the place, the restaurant was pretty much full (not bad for a dreadfully cold & wet Thurs evening) and the quirky touches, the pewter water jug, tumblers for the wine and the authentic crockery, all added to the ambience.

Turkish Coffee

A couple of Turkish coffees for me and an Apple Tea for SB rounded the evening off although it would have been nice to have had some Turkish Delight too! (sadly they hadn’t got any)

The scores, the bathrooms a 6/7 out of 10, nicley decortaed and in keeping, although no hot water. The service got a 7/10, it was low key but well done. Now for the tricky part, the overall score, this was really difficult for us as our hearts said a 7 but our heads were nearer a 6 and we were really struggling. We had come with very high expectations of finding a cornucopia of Turkish delights (that’s one’s for you SB ;o) but were left somewhat underwhelmed by the food, we would have loved to give it more but are compromising on a 6.5/10. The bill was also a little on the high side (£52) especially bearing in mind we had brought our own wine.

Empires, 24 St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SU. 0131 466 0100

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