9 Broughton Street Barton, Australian Capital Territory 2600
|Opening hours||L Tue-Fri; D Tue-Sat|
|Features||Licensed, BYO, Accepts bookings, Groups, Long lunch, Private dining, Romance-first date, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 6273 6111|
Nestled in amongst the public service offices of Barton and hidden behind a lush garden setting, Ottoman has been dishing up Turkish fare to politicians, public servants and the rest of us for over 25 years. This Canberra institution has enjoyed leadership stability unheard of in the region, holding on to its chef hat since the Keating era in 1994 – that's seven Prime Ministers ago, for those counting.
The glass-panelled pavilion dining room is almost conservatory like; sitting amongst the water features and greenery it is easy to see why Ottoman is a favourite for power lunches or early evening dinners that linger into the night.
There is no right way to eat here, sharing is recommended but not sharing is equally acceptable, or so our waiter tells us. He explains that the food here is not traditional – it is loosely inspired by Turkish food, but with a twist.
There's a lot of choice, both on the a la carte menu and the wine list, plus seven specials that the waiter effortlessly rattles off but we have trouble keeping up with.
It requires a bit of imagination to see how the kingfish sashimi is Turkish inspired but the Ottoman empire did span three continents, so I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially at a restaurant with such a long history of success.
There is something for everyone here, whether you prefer your Turkish food traditional, modern or somewhere in between.
You can have dolma in either its classic form - little capsicums filled with rice, or as modern salmon-filled vine leaves. If you're feeling so inclined, there's also a banquet ($70 – minimum four diners) or degustation option ($85). The drinks list is not just limited to wine, there's lot of choice from beer to cocktails.
Service is seamless and standout at this establishment and it's the little things that set it apart – the awkward third serve of borek arrives cut in half so that we don't have to divide it ourselves. The duck borek ($19) is top notch; the paper-thin yufka pastry made in house and rich duck meat filling accentuated with currants and pinenuts.
The zeytinyagli sebze dolma ($18) or rice stuffed capsicums and baby eggplant is good too, though a little less memorable.
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder with skordalia ($38) is everything I had hoped that fine dining Turkish food would be. It's refined, polished and immensely comforting in a way that's evocative of late night kebab runs.
The king prawns ($36) are delicately spiced, sauteed with snowpeas and zucchini – light on the big, bold Turkish flavours that I've come to expect but well cooked nonetheless.
I'm still feeling rather peckish so it's a two-dessert sort of night. The lokma with mascarpone ($16) are the best regional version of fried doughnuts I've tried, though I do wish there were more than three on the plate.
Revani ($16) is good too; an orange and semolina cake that is light and almost spongelike, oozing orange syrup as you bite down on it. A perfectly tangy scoop of honey yoghurt sorbet makes for a nice accompaniment.
Ottoman walks the line between traditional and modern with ease; classic but not home-style, contemporary but not overly flamboyant. The menu has remained much the same over the years, a testament to the quality of the food and the loyalty of its clientele.