By Trevor Pepys
Telephone Call From Istanbul, reviewed by Trevor Pepys
Stumbling around Noosa Junction after that splendid Spanish feast at Sindo’s the other night, looking in vain for a lost Uber, Trevor suddenly felt the urge to be seated, as he sometimes does after the third bottle of wine.
It came as something of a surprise to discover that he had plonked himself down in a restaurant, more or less. A couple of sandstone benches on the footpath, to be precise, with a chef toiling away behind a hole-in-the-wall serving window, above which was etched the mysterious legend, “Telephone Call From Istanbul”. The space, not to mention the aromas emanating from the hole in the wall, was intriguing to say the least.
Following the Casa Anita theory of the less it looks like a restaurant the better the food will be, I found a contact on social media and left a message. Ken, the owner and chef, called me back within the hour and I asked for a booking for four that night. Ken laughed at me. Well, I asked, if you won’t take a booking, what time should I get there to be sure of a table?
“Come early,” he said, “I usually run out of everything on Saturday night.”
So we did, arriving just after dark for what Trev’s mum used to call “early tea”, and taking up residence on the self-same bench that Trev had fallen into previously. This time, however, his wits were in somewhat better shape and, after receiving the assistance of the charming front of house person, Artimis, he was able to order. “We’ll have everything, please.”
Now this was not as bold and daring as it may seem, since TCFI has only three items on the menu, and to the untrained eye, they all appear to be the same. But, as Artimis explained, the subtle differences between Istanbul Knife Fight, A Thief In Jerusalem and Lost In Damascus were significant to the taste buds, and she was right. These main courses are $16 a pop and ideal for sharing, and can be had with vegetarian falafel or chargrilled lamb, with a bowl of broth (chicken the night we went) chucked in for good measure.
We sipped a passable tumbler of white wine ($8) while we waited for our food to arrive, but if I’d known how cold it was going to get – TCFI could do with a couple of heat towers – I would have ordered the hot Turkish tea with cinnamon-infused whisky, lemon liqueur and honey ($10). But the tucker soon warmed us up.
To be honest, Trevor’s palate has taken such a beating over the years that he found it difficult to distinguish between the three dishes, other than the fact that a couple were falafel and a couple were lamb, but it didn’t matter. Everything was delicious. For the record, the Knife Fight features fried green pepper, burnt mint butter and caramelised onion, the Thief banana chilli and Lost has smoked eggplant. All come with house harissa and charred flatbread.
This is Middle Eastern street food, pure and simple. The kind that Trevor imagines he would find scattered around the markets of many war-torn cities he has so far managed to avoid. However, he has done his time in the souks of Marrakech and Casablanca and experienced similarly remarkable flavours as he watched the passing parade and was serenaded by wailing from the nearby mosque. There was no wailing at Telephone Call the other night, but we made do with the doof-doof booming out of Eddie Cheeba’s and a passing parade on skateboards.
The verdict: you’ll be in and out in 40 minutes so you might want to think about making a plan for later – like the Village Bike or Mr Drifter – but the tastes of Istanbul will linger much longer. For repeat business, Kenny could consider offering more variations, but what he does, he does damn well. Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Friday and dinner Saturday.
Telephone Call From Istanbul
Shop 4A 1 Arcadia Street, Noosa Junction
0419 182 852