When I moved to Leeds from London, over twenty years ago, the one thing I missed was Turkish restaurants.
Over the last few years I have been pleased to see a sprinkle of suburban Turkish restaurants appearing in Leeds. There is Ephesus in Rodley, Olive Branch in Moortown and Black Olive in Crossgates.
The restaurant scene in Crossgates doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the media. This is a shame as it has some very good options. You can choose from Italian, Indian, Greek, Turkish, fish and chips or grilled chicken.
I was supposed to be eating at the newly opened Padrino, which has no specific cuisine, but unfortunately lockdown phase two put paid that plan. Instead, I headed to Black Olive for a Turkish takeaway. I had been hesitant to eat here since the end of the first lockdown as there is limited room between tables, but there is an efficient takeaway service.
Not all of my favourite Turkish dishes are on the menu, but Turkey is a big country, and no single establishment will offer everything. I suspect the family behind Black Olive may be of Turkish Cypriot origin. Classic Greek dishes such as moussaka, stifado and Greek salad, appear on the menu. This is no bad thing. Cyprus has long been one of my favourite foodie destinations as the cuisine often combines the best of Turkish and Greek cooking. On the other hand, they may be competing with Zorbas, the Greek restaurant on the same stretch of Austhorpe Road.
I looked through the menu for patlican salata, my go to favourite aubergine and tomato starter, then settled on the shakshuka. This proved to be a very good choice, consisting of marinated vegetables with tomato and garlic sauce, similar to patlican salata, but with a greater variety of vegetables. I’m not sure why it was on the ‘nibbles’ section of the menu as this was quite a substantial starter. It was served with fresh Turkish bread. This to me is the key test of authenticity when eating Turkish food. Too often I have ordered Turkish dips or salads and found them served with bland, mass produced pitta. Turkish bread for me combines the best of flat and yeasted breads. It has a lovely crispy top, just enough depth to give it substance, but is still great for dipping. The bread here was great.
I also ordered a muska boregi – Filo pastry rolled around herb infused mince. The outside was dry and crisp while the filling was hot and moist. There is also a cheese version on the menu. Confusingly, these are described as cheese rolls rather than the usual sigara boregi. Perhaps Black Olive are trying to dissociate themselves from the tobacco industry as sigara means cigarette.
The mains arrived packed in polystyrene containers with a separate space for rice. These seemed to do a good job of keeping the food warm whilst also reducing the number of cartons used. I had chosen a special mixed grill and Karniyarik – baked aubergine stuffed with minced lamb and covered with cheese.
The mixed grill (feature photograph) was very good value. It cost only a pound more than most of the other grills but offered chicken breast, chicken wings, lamb fillet, minced lamb kebab and doner kebab. We adopted the strategy of sharing mains as there was too much meat for one person. A second serving of Turkish bread also came with the kebab.
The mains menu is very meat heavy, the only vegetarian option being Greek salad, and nothing for vegans. However, if you look further there are fish, pasta, pizza and separate vegetarian sections. I noted belatedly that there was something called vegetable sauté, which is described as a ‘tomato based fresh vegetable stew with a touch of spice.’ I suspect this is what in Turkey would be called guvec, one of my favourite dishes. At times efforts to anglicise the menu may have obscured the authenticity of what is on offer here. There are some missing Turkish dishes. It seemed a shame to sell pizzas but not offer the Turkish versions of pide and lamachun.
The baked aubergine was delicious. The aubergine shell was soft but firm enough to serve as a bowl. The contents were well seasoned and rich with garlic and tomato. The cheese topping was nicely browned. This dish could easily be adapted to add another vegetarian option if the filling was changed.
All mains are served with rice and salad. The rice was buttery but not stodgy. The salad was tasty but rather limp. This was probably the result of the take away process. Having salad covered in dressing transported alongside warm food is not a recipe for crispness. It might be a good idea for the dressing to be packed separately and added when the food arrives home.
The take away came with a good selection of sauces to accompany the meal. There were small pots of ezme (spicy tomato salsa) and garlic sauce. There was also a larger pot of home made chilli sauce. The ezme and chilli sauce were outstanding. Both had depths of flavour and were not overpowered by chilli.
Take away orders can be made by phone or online. I went for the phone option, having had some poor experiences elsewhere recently when the promised online twenty minute wait time was more like forty. Here, we were promised the order would take twenty minutes and it was being assembled when we arrived at the restaurant twenty minutes later. There is a 15% discount for collections and food can be delivered.
We ordered more than enough food for two people. After the collection discount the bill came to a reasonable £32.50. Delivery and collection is available every day from 12 noon to 10 pm.
Black Olive is well worth a try, along with neighbouring outlets offering those international flavours at Crossgates.
28 Austhorpe Rd
Leeds, LS15 8DX
0113 318 1417
Photographs by Debbie Rolls.