BRUSSELS. Hello again, Döner Fans. Put down that kebab and wipe the sauce off your jowls, I have another treat to share with you. This time, an all-you-can-eat Turkish buffet here in Brussels. That’s right, all you can eat! No four words in the English language sound sweeter in Dr Döner’s ears! They are an invitation to disgrace oneself. Let me speak to you of El Turco.
Enter and disgrace thyself
On the little square known as Place de Londres, just the other week, I met my fellow diners at the agreed time. It was dark; conditions were perfect. By day we may have been respectable members of the community. But tonight we would be disreputable gluttons. We went into El Turco, ordered some perfunctory drinks, and then hit the buffet.
I should say that this was not my first time at El Turco. I had graced it almost a year before, and had done things to my body there that you would struggle to pay for in the backstreets of Amsterdam. It works like this: at El Turco you move in a line along the buffet, piling as much as you can onto a plate that quickly becomes too small. There is vegetarian mezze at one end and grilled meat at the other. After scooping up a shameful amount of food, your plate is then weighed to work out the price. If, like me, you anticipate eating an excessive amount of food, the combined weight of which you’d rather not know, then you can instead simply pay 24,90 EUR for all-you-can-eat, multiple plates, no weighing, no judgmental looks, no questions asked. It is the discerning diner’s option.
Vegetarian mezze waiting to be guzzled down in huge quantities.
I duly loaded up my first plate. I shovelled on börek, hummus, okra, feta, grilled peppers, grilled aubergine in yoghurt, chickpeas, and a deliciously crisp çoban salatası (shepherd’s salad) of finely-sliced cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and peppers. There was barely space left to balance a huge köfte on the top of it all by the time I got to the grill. I staggered back to the table and shovelled it into my face. Perhaps I chatted to my fellow diners; I do not recall. The company was unimportant. The food was paramount.
The first plate. Or, as I like to think of it, the appetiser. The “amuse-bouche”.
I’ve always felt that the first plate is just a formality. It is your chance to find out what you want more of and what you can do without. The trick is to guzzle it down and get a second plate before your stomach realises it’s full. Avoid bread, as it only fills you up faster. Anyway, the food-fever was on me, and I returned to the buffet.
Plate number two
The second plate was more circumspect. I piled on the salad and left space for more meat from the grill. The köfte had been excellent, and this time I went for the lamb. Once more I devoured it, like a lion on a gazelle. It was juicy and delicious.
By this time I was beginning to sweat, and the buttons on my shirt were groaning under the sudden strain. I threw myself for a third and final time onto the meaty seas of the buffet, this time to load up on fruit for dessert. After that, I ate no more.
Nothing keeps a rich meal down like a big pile of fruit.
El Turco describes itself as a Mediterranean self-service restaurant with a strong Ottoman influence. It combines traditional and new types of delicious cold mezze with typical Turkish grilled meats. Its food is 100% homemade. They also serve raki, Efes and Turkish tea and coffee. Common to all its mezze is a feeling of freshness, and a modest plateful might indeed be extremely healthy. But who goes to an all-you-can-eat restaurant to eat only a modest plateful? The very idea!
I have been to all-you-can-eat buffets before which I can only describe as grim and upsetting. El Turco is neither of these things. El Turco is a classy place, with a chic interior of bare wood, concrete and tiles. Unlike the comfy, homely, living-room feel of Kervansaray, El Turco feels polished and sophisticated, the kind of place where hipsters might dine. I recommend it, though if you go, wear something loose-fitting. It plays havoc with your waistline. Until next time, Döner Fans!
The El Turco interior, borrowed from their website.
You can book your visit to El Turco on their website.
To Recap: What Have We Learned?
“çoban salatası” [cho-ban –sa-la-ta-seugh] (shepherd’s salad)
Service: 4/5 (helpful and efficient, though really you mostly serve yourself)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (chic and sophisticated)
Price: 4/5 (depends how much you eat; I always get my money’s worth)
Taste: 5/5 (yum)
Photographs by Dr Döner