Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie.
I grew up in Yorkshire and no night out was complete without a 3am stop at La Bodrum, a pizza/burger/kebab shop, where chips and gravy could be eaten alongside a kofte kebab for a mere £4.50. It were right good.
The experience wasn't exactly married in my mind to the white-walled, sun-splashed Turkish port city, Bodrum. Neither was LynnMall, but things have changed.
Part of a $39 million mall expansion, recently opened dining lane The Brickworks is home to Alex Isik's new Turkish and Greek-inspired all-day eatery, Bodrum Kitchen.
It's a crisp white and azure-clad restaurant, rooted in the community of New Lynn. That's how Isik puts it when we chat over lunch. He and his wife Nigar moved to New Zealand 14 years ago, with less than $250 to their name. Alex got a job washing dishes at a New Lynn restaurant, and the pair lived in a $100-a-week unit nearby. In three years, they'd saved enough to open their first business, and the Mozaik chain of cafes Alex still manages, was born.
As time wore on, Alex became bored with the franchise formula, and Deco Eatery in Titirangi and Nomad in Point Chevalier (both opened last year) were created as "concept restaurants" to demonstrate his strong eye for design and executive chef Nigar's passion for global cuisines.
Alex's older sister Feriza collaborated with Nigar on Bodrum's Turkish/Greek fusion menu. "I told her all of my favourite things we ate when we were children, and she turned it into a menu," Alex explains. His family were rural farmers, and while he says they were poor growing up, they never wanted for home-grown food, which they'd share in the now-fashionable "small plates" style.
Alex generously ordered a selection of dishes for me to sample, insisting I try the stuffed Istanbul mussels, cauliflower fritters with ezme, capsicum dolma, sivas kofta, Adana kebab and shakshuka - his pride is expansive. The fluffy fritters were a highlight, along with the homemade, mildly spiced Adana kebab with creamy tzatziki. There was a slight absence of fresh greens and lighter, citrus flavours, but I daresay this could be remedied with alternative ordering.
With four businesses in a 4km radius, the locals know Alex. From time to time he offers them free coffee from beautiful handmade cups, presented on bright blue evil-eye plates handmade down the road at Steiner Ceramics.
The protective, Turkish evil eye was a key inspiration for the interior's design and proliferates, from an installation of 150 hanging glass ornaments above the central bar (Alex wanted 1500 but the ceiling couldn't take the weight) to lapel pins worn by staff. With furniture imported directly from Bodrum, coffee roasted on site and handmade Turkish Delight, made in front of customers by Greek chef Nada, Alex's attention to detail is impressive.
Dining at Bodrum Kitchen is transporting - you couldn't feel further from LynnMall - but you still feel the warmth of a restaurant strongly connected to its community.
The Brickworks, LynnMall
3058 Great North Rd
Bodrum Kitchen on Facebook