Safran Turkish Restaurant -Ettalong
Safran Turkish Restaurant -Ettalong

Safran Turkish Restaurant -Ettalong

Safran is Turkish for Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world and native to the Mediterranean area. Safran is also the name of the Turkish restaurant on the Central Coast where we’re dining tonight. The restaurant specialises in Modern Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine so the name is quite appropriate.

Safran Ettalong Exterior

Safran Ettalong Exterior

Being summer it was still daylight when we were shown to our table at 7.00pm. We had been lucky to get a reservation, the restaurant was fully booked and already full when we arrived!

We were seated at a large rustic table with a white linen table cloth.  The waiter proceeded to place the cloth napkins on our laps and pour glasses of water. This was exactly the experience I was after. I love Turkish food but have mostly experienced it in a “cheap but cheerful” environment.  It was immediately obvious Safran intended to take things up a notch or two.

Safran Menu

Safran Menu

I absentmindedly popped one after another of the complimentary marinated olives in my mouth as I read through the wine list.  The wine list featured local wines from the Hunter Valley and Australia’s other wine regions, plus the more exotic wines which had been imported from Turkey.

Bimbadgen Wine

Bimbadgen Wine

I noticed a waiter at the next table decanting a bottle of Turkish Shiraz in a glass decanter.  Although I was tempted to try a Turkish wine they were only available by the bottle. I knew I couldn’t manage a bottle on my own! So I settled for another of my favourite local wines. The Sparkling Semillon from Bimbadgen in the Hunter Valley. I have told you all about this vineyard on the Virtual Hunter Valley Wine Tour I shared in a previous story.

The beer selection also impressed Brett.

After a quick look he announced, “There’s are beer here I have never seen before!”

That may not seen like a big deal to most people but Brett prides himself on knowing and trying all beers.

Efes Beer

Efes Beer

Even though he was interested in trying the Pigs Fly Pale Ale he decided to ordered Efes instead. After all, tonight we were having Turkish food and what is better with Turkish food than Turkish beer.

Everything on the menu looked so good we were struggling to make a decision. I wanted one of everything!! I was also rather hungry and the aroma in the restaurant was teasing me.

Eventually Mr GG and I ordered the Banquet for two. We settled on an additional Mezes plate for the children to share.

Turkish Bread Dips

Turkish Bread Dips

The dips arrived first and were served with a bowl of warm Turkish Bread.

Cacik is a garlic, yoghurt and cucumber dip which is similar to tzaziki. It had a lovely lemony and dill flavour and the yoghurt was impossibly creamy. The dip was finished with a swirl of olive oil.

I love Babaganoush! I was pleased to see it arrive at the table. The eggplant had been smoked gorgeously over charcoals and the flavour was sublime. It was so light and silky, so much better than your average babaganoush.

Locky commented “The flavour just pops out at you!”… hehe, that’s my boy 🙂

The final dip was a hummus. Hommus is a standard dip on any mezes platter but this Hummus included some ground cumin seed which gave it a distinct flavour.

Garlic Prawn

Garlic Prawn

Also included in the first course was a serving of Garlic Prawns, Rocket Salad and Stuffed Zucchini Flower.

The prawns arrived in a decorative metal Turkish bowl. The sauce accompanying the prawns was a rich, sweet, tomato sauce which also featured artichoke heart and the promised garlic. The large  prawns were perfectly cooked. I used the remaining bread to mop up all the sauce. It was simply too good to leave.

Rocket Salad

Rocket Salad

Rocket Salads was a refreshing inclusion on the banquet menu. Sometimes I feel the “green component” gets missed in a banquet. The Safran rocket salad was amazing. Freshest, crisp, greens with a creamy feta,  crunchy toasted almonds and oven roasted tomato! The dressing was a zingy red wine vinigerrette which made the salad sing!

The children had been enjoying our Safran Turkish banquet as much as we were.

Chicken Kebab Mezes

Chicken Kebab Mezes

The next meze to arrive was the dish we ordered for Locky and Anais, the Chicken Kebab Meze. I was surprised by the size of the share plate. The Turkish chicken skewer was served on a decorative metal skewer and was very generous. Large cubes of marinated chicken had been cooked over the charcoal grill giving the meat a lovely smokey charred flavour. Both Brett and I sampled a piece of the moist chicken before we divided the share plate for the kids.

The Chicken Skewer meze was also served with a fluffy, light bulgur pilaff and two pieces of flat bread.

With the first course complete we were ready for our entree course.

Deepfried Zucchini Flower

Deepfried Zucchini Flower

Stuffed zucchini flowers were another taste sensation! The flowers were stuffed with goats cheese but had additional flavours that I could identify, but fell in love with immediately. The cheese wasn’t the usual soft runny goats cheese, it had a milder flavour, and more texture. This made a lovely contrast to the light crispy tempura exterior.

Eggplant Dolma

Eggplant Dolma

The banquet entrée selection also included a serving of eggplant dolma.  These delicacies had all the flavour of traditional vine wrapped dolma, but were enclosed in eggplant. The filling was an eastern turkish style rice which included ground lamb, mint, lemon and spices.  The baked eggplant casing made a silky flavoursome envelope. The dish was served on a yoghurt sauce which was surrounded by a rich jus.

Air Dried Beef Borek

Air Dried Beef Borek

I can’t begin to explain the flavours contained in this dish. The pastry was super crisp and had a unique aromatic spiced flavour profile, perhaps cooked in a spiced ghee? The Borek Filo rolls lay on a slice of roasted zucchini. Inside each of the filo pastry boreks was a piece of air dried cured beef and smoked cheese. The combination was sublime.

Eggplant Dolma Lamb Shank Meze

Eggplant Dolma Lamb Shank Meze

It was time to move onto the third course, which was a small sample of mains from the menu. By this time I was quite full, but I was greedily looking forward to the meals. Braised lamb shanks wrapped in eggplant were placed on the table. The meat was “melt in the mouth” tender, it had been braised to perfection. The eggplant was marinated and the flavour of the confit garlic just perfect with the lamb. The dish was served in a rich lamb jus. The dish was so meaty in flavour and velvety in the mouth.

Beef Inegol Kofte

Lamb Inegol Kofte

The final main was what I thought would be a fairly normal Lamb Kofte. Again I was mistaken, this was another dish that was built around complimentary flavours and the beautiful plating of a traditional dish. The Kofte was out of this world with moist garlicky flavours. The meat simply oozed flavoursome liquid with each bite.  The Lamb Inegol Kofte was served on a chilli capsicum ezme, it then benefited from a layer of braised eggplant. Even though I wanted to save space for dessert I simply couldn’t leave a bite.

Safran Turkish Assiette Dessert Platter

Safran Turkish Assiette Dessert Platter

If there is anything better than dessert I suspect it would be a “Turkish Dessert Platter”. Although we had ordered a banquet for two I noticed the attentive staff had cut the three desserts into four pieces.  This and the additional dessert cutlery made it easy to share with the children.

I didn’t want to share with the children!

I love real Turkish delight, that sweet floral perfume flavour, with the sticky jelly texture. YUM!! So good, I worked my through my piece of turkish delight savouring each slow mouthful. The children went straight for their slice of Baclava, they know and love Baclava.

Turkish floss was a big hit with the kids. That suited me fine because I wasn’t wasting tummy space on it when there was helva calling my name.  The halva had a delicious creamy, nutty flavour with the expected crisp crunch. I thought I tasted a chocolate tones but I’m not sure. It was delicious. Against my better judgement I encouraged the children to try the Helva. Thankfully they didn’t want any so I got an additional piece!

My final Turkish banquet dessert experience was the buttery, sweet baclava. Crisp baked filo pastry layered and buttered and layered again with a nutty crunchy middle.  The baclava, was dripping with syrup and flavourso syrupy dripping with flavour, the perfect way to end an amazing meal.

Safran serves food unlike any Turkish restaurant I have visited in the past. Each dish was plated beautifully and contained all manner of flavour. It’s a completely refined take on cuisine we have always enjoyed.

Safran on Urbanspoon
Safran Turkish Cuisine

81/189 Ocean View Road

Ettalong Beach NSW 2257

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About Julie


  1. Such beautiful food… very inspired menu.

  2. I love Turkish food and it does look like a slightly different environment to other Turkish restaurants I have eaten at. Very nice. Those zucchini flowers would be the dish for me!

  3. yum i love babaganoush!

  4. It sounds like this was a good find. What a great dining experience, especially as, as you say, many Turkish places in Australia are very casual. The food here sounds great and the atmosphere as well.

  5. each dish looks amazing, and what a great dining experience 🙂

  6. This place looks fantastic! Love the turquish food! I went to Istambul once and I loved it! I used eat Baclava all the good! You are right doesn’t share your dessert with the children 😉 xo

  7. Oh my goodness!I want to eat each and every dish that you guys were served!!!Looks mouth watering..many of them are pretty new to me but sound really really good!

  8. OMG..those dishes are gorgeous! You are right about the Turkish Dessert Platter being better than dessert…what an awesome experience!

  9. Each and every dish sounds and looks delicious. Especially the zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese!

    Nice review!

  10. Very interesting and flavourful…I want those deep-fried zucchini flowers! The Turkish Delight platter looks good enough for me alone, LOL!! Great to hear everyone had a nice time at Safran!!

  11. mm~ the garlic prawns look and sound amazing! 😀
    Thaat air dried beef borak sounds interesting too! 🙂

  12. Oh my gosh, Julie, your pictures are mouthwatering and you describe each dish in such delicious detail that I feel the need to find a good Turkish restaurant for dinner tonight! I wonder if I can get a flight! lol.
    Of course, I love the prawn dish and the addition of artichoke is inspired. The eggplant dishes are scrumptious looking and I am so jealous that I was not at that table with you!
    Thanks for the vicarious journey. A lovely way to start the day 🙂

  13. It’s hard to share desserts with the kids when we all know adults are BIG KIDS themselves too 😛 My heart wants the Turkish dessert platter!

  14. One day I have to visit Australia to go to all the places that you guys show here.
    Turkish food is a family favorite. I would have loved to devour the deep fried zucchini flower and the eggplant dolma. Both are new to me! Babaganoush is a staple that I order often.
    Great review! Happy New Year!

  15. Oh that baclava looks amazing!! I went to a baclava factory in Istanbul a couple of years ago and ate so much that I couldn’t look at it for months… now I’m back loving baclava!!!

  16. i love a good turkish feed! sounds like u had a great time!

  17. What a great find in Ettalong. The food all looks amazing and what a great selection. I have never tried Turkish wines or beers. I do love visiting Ettalong so next time I’ll definitely try Safran xx

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