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Turkish Chef Restaurant & Wine Bar
Heanor, Derbyshire
01773 479306
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Dinner At The Recently Opened Turkish Chef Restaurant and Wine Bar, Heanor

Published On Thursday 4 Jul 2024 by Sticky Beak
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I’m a firm believer in manifesting. The previous week I’d suggested to The Man that we eat out when he was out of the office, but he’d pooh-pooh’d it, saying he’d be back too late. However, I kept the faith for a whole week, and when he returned home and came upstairs (I was being a bath hippo at the time!) was rewarded by him saying he’d booked a table for us to eat out. Cue me rushing around to get ready in time!

The last time we visited this particular building in Heanor it was in its former guise as an Indian restaurant; now it is the Turkish Chef Restaurant and Wine Bar. We managed to bag a spot on the road outside – of which there are plenty – but there is also the Tesco car park nearby.

As you’d expect, the décor has changed somewhat; now it reflects Chef Halil’s heritage… though you can tell it’s his wife (Ksenija) who has influenced that final look. Light and airy, the venue has lightly distressed wood flooring, and the small set of steps that separate the two dining areas have lanterns and jugs on top of the Turkish rug that decorates them. Another Turkish rug was on the wall above our table and I admired its intricate woven detail. Sleek, black panels form the bottom half of the wall, with plain cream paint on the upper half. Lanterns and faux foliage are interspersed around the upper room, creating a ‘romance’ table in one corner which is ideal for those date-nights. 

Ksenija is a highly qualified Sommelier and the adjoining Wine Bar is her domain, but her influence can be seen on the restaurant’s striking feature wall that is comprised of wooden wine crate fronts. A further nod to the Grape is seen in the corks that decorate a feature mirror, along with twinkling fairy-lights. Simple blinds keep sun out of diners’ eyes and, when Ksenija rolled them up, colourful tile murals could be seen on the uppermost parts of the windows. Like I said, a female touch was definitely present here!

The Wine Bar - the entrance to the whole premises - is very well stocked, and not only can you drink in-situ, you can also purchase wine (and some seriously swanky spirits) to take home or give as gifts. Ksenija actually gave us a bottle of Turkish Red Wine to bring home and savour – how kind is that? Talking of drinks, His Nibs was a jolly happy boy when he spotted Efes lager, so that was a large bottle heading his way! I fancied something a little lighter, so I went for a can of San Pellegrino sparkling water with Orange.

Whilst we were looking through the menu and deciding what to have, Chef sent out some nibbles for us: Mixed Olives, Herbed Yoghurt, and Halil’s own secret blend of Tomato, Orange and Spices, along with some warm Turkish Bread. Chef’s secret dip was amazing! As well as the sweet notes of Tomato and the Orange flesh, there was a sharpness from bitter Orange too, which, paired with the tingling spices, made this a very intriguing dip.

Sunday-Thursday, Turkish Chef do an offer of starter, main, and dessert for £19.95 per person (excluding platters) – needless to say, we went for this! I ordered Cacik for my starter; I love the combination of creamy Natural Yoghurt, Mint, Garlic, Cucumber, Fresh Dill and Olive Oil. We’d finished pretty much all of the previous bread with the nibbles, so Ksenija brought out some warmed flatbread that was studded with Black Onion Seeds. The delicate taste of the Kalonji seeds added another element on the palate, and the soft bread complimented the dip beautifully. 

The Man Bird’s warm starter, Borek, was gorgeously presented: the gently golden tubes were set against a bed of verdant Rocket leaves. A mix of Feta cheese, Shallot, Leek and Parsley is stuffed into sheets of Filo pastry and then deep-fried to crispy perfection; the result is a wickedly crunchy outer with a delightfully flavoursome filling that really is comfort food at its peak. A bowl of Sweet Chilli Sauce was the perfect companion for these minxes, and His Nibs had great fun dunking them in!

Ksenija had checked we were enjoying our starters and, when she came to clear away the plates, took the time to have a chat with us, explaining a bit about her and Halil’s background and wanting to know how the blog got started. I love getting to know folks, it’s one of the best bits about the blog.

For mains, we both went for dishes from the Turkish Chef Specials selection: King Karniyarik for me, Spicy Lamb Sauté for The Man. As far as ‘wow factor’ goes, my dish certainly had it: a large Aubergine was split down the middle and stuffed with Minced Lamb and Vegetables, topped with a thick, tomato sauce and oven-baked until the Aubergine was softened. The Lamb was sweet and earthy, enhanced by Chef’s skilful spicing and Onion, but it was the pulpy, creamy flesh of the Aubergine that, when mixed in, really gave this dish the X factor in the mouth. This was a multi-layered taste sensation and the accompanying Rice, Salad and
Yoghurt sauce was really all that was needed. Absolutely wonderful.

The Man Bird was just as smitten with his Spicy Lamb Sauté, and again the presentation was beautiful. Wherever and whenever we’ve eaten Turkish food there has always been a common thread: the Lamb has been cooked excellently, preserving its rich flavour and producing tender, soft morsels. This particular occasion proved no different; Halil had served up some gorgeously moist cubes of Lamb and partnered them with Shallots and Peppers that still had a lovely crunch to them. Fresh Tomatoes had been slowly cooked to soften them and intensify their taste as well as thicken the sauce. This was a seriously scrummy dish, especially when the palate picked up the notes of Chilli in there, providing a wonderful culinary ‘after-glow’ in the mouth.

Chef is a naturally shy chap, so it was lovely to see that he pushed himself out of his comfort-zone and come for a chat with ourselves and other diners. Everyone was very complimentary and gave some feedback on what they especially liked and what meals they’ve savoured whilst holidaying in Turkey. There’s no doubting that Halil and Ksenija want to fit in with their local customers, so it would be nice if we could all get behind them, too. As I always say: use it or lose it #supportlocalbusiness.

For dessert, we’d been looking forward to some Baklava, but unfortunately Chef hadn’t had time to make any! Instead, I went for Lemon Meringue Pie and His Nibs had Vanilla Ice cream with melted White Chocolate on top. What we did get, though, were pieces of Turkish Delight: Rose and Minty Citrus types. Now, His Nibs has a very sweet-tooth, as many of you know – what you don’t know though is that when we go to a particular hotel in Turkey, he fills up a pint glass with Turkish Delight every time he passes through reception where bowls of it are out!! He doesn’t just pass through reception once or twice each day either! The desserts were lovely, but nowhere near as nice as an authentic Turkish one would have been…but there are only so many hours in the day, and when it’s just the two of them literally doing it all I guess something has to give.

Throughout our evening, we couldn’t fault a thing: the service was superb, the food was tremendous and the premises kept spotless. Both of us will definitely be back to Turkish Chef Restaurant and Wine Bar, and hopefully Ksenija will have her ‘F-Rosé’ slushies on offer in the near future, too.

Hot Wings happily given to this marvellous Heanor restaurant. To book a table ring 01773 479306 or hit the ‘book a table’ button on the website www.turkish-chef.com. Turkish Chef is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but opens Weds-Sunday 4-10pm.

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