Anatolian Turkish Restaurant, Abergavenny

When Pete and I moved from London to a small village close to Abergavenny at the start of 2019, one of the cuisines we really missed was Turkish. In our old home in North Finchley, London we had easy access to several excellent Turkish restaurants which we visited often! After moving, although we enjoyed the Turkish food we were able to find locally, neither the breadth of their menu (though they offer a more extensive menu now than back in 2019) nor the size of their portions matched our London favourites, even though what we ate was good and tasty.

Exterior of Anatolian Turkish Restaurant, Abergavenny Interior of Anatolian Turkish Restaurant, Abergavenny

When Anatolian Turkish Restaurant set up shop along Cross Street we checked out their menu before they even opened their doors, and when they launched in July 2020 and we were among the first eager customers to visit. We were not disappointed! Here were so many of the dishes we’d been missing from our Finchley favourite haunts, such as sucuk, borek and humus kavarma to start, mains including adana kofte, shish, beyti and iskender kebabs, lamb chops and chicken wings, and sides such as ezme salad, grilled onions, and bulgur and rice. And a lot more to choose from too!

Borek and sujuk Turkish bread, olives and dips Adana kofte kebab and lamb sharma beyti main dishes
Lamb borek and sucuk, Turkish bread with olives and sauces, and lamb sarma beyti and adana kofte main dishes/span>

The warm welcome, friendly service and high quality of food were everything we had hoped, and we quickly became regulars. I can’t even tell you how many visits we’ve made since then, many of them with friends and family in tow. It’s a very rare month that we don’t visit at least once.

The space is fun too, designed to resemble the inside of a cave, with rough textured walls and stalactites on the ceiling (in the back area), an artificial tree, and 3D art of local castles on the walls. Most importantly, the chairs are super comfy – perfect for a leisurely meal.

Arnavut ciger (lamb liver with butter and herbs) Turkish bread and shakshuka Turkish bread, grilled halloumi and imam bayaldi
Arnavut ciger (lambs liver), Turkish bread with shakshuka, and grilled halloumi with imam bayladi

The reason Anatolian so well matches my memories of North West London’s Turkish restaurants is that the team behind it owned and worked in several excellent restaurants there in the years prior to opening in Abergavenny. Semih Kamalak is Anatolian’s charismatic owner and director, and he is ably assisted by warm and welcoming manager Aydin Dursun. Both grew up in Turkey, immediately making their marks in the hospitality industry there before building those skills further through many years running restaurants in London and Essex.

Lamb sharma beyti Adana kofte kebabs
Lamb sarma beyti, and adana kofte kebabs

This wealth of experience is what allows Semih and Aydin to handle so well many of the challenges facing the UK’s hospitality industry today, not least maintaining a skilled and happy team of staff, keeping the quality of food high in the face of rising prices, and thus keeping an army of loyal customers happy.

Iskender kebab Lamb shish and adana kofte kebabs
Iskender kebab, and lamb shish and adana kofte kebabs

The main menu offers a tempting selection of hot and cold meze (starters), meat and seafood mains cooked over charcoal plus several variations where those items are combined with yoghurt, tomato and butter sauces, a number of house specials such as karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with meat and vegetables), mussaka, lamb casserole, Anatolian chicken, and a number of seafood and vegetarian options too. There are also a few set menus too.

Lamb saute Anatolian chicken Grilled monkfish
Lamb sautee, Anatolian chicken, and grilled monkfish

One of the biggest bargains in town is Anatolian’s Monday to Thursday lunch special menu from which you can order a two course meal for just £15 (from a decent list of choices); the portions are a little smaller than the same dishes on the main menu but still more than enough for a generous lunch. They are also open on Mondays, which is an added bonus for us, since Monday is my non-working day at my day job.

We are creatures of habit on these visits, and almost always order lamb borek (a minced lamb filling wrapped in filo pastry and deep fried til crisp), shakshuka (a mix of aubergine, tomato and peppers, usually served cool), adana kofte (classic minced lamb kebab), and lamb sarma beyti (where pieces of adana are wrapped in flatbread and served with yoghurt and tomato sauce).

Lamb borek, shakshuka, adana kofte kabab Lamb sarma beyti

Other favourites of ours include the arnavut ciger starter (pieces of lamb liver tossed in butter and herbs and served with a punchy salad of red onion, tomato and cucumber), sucuk (slices of a firm, spicy Turkish sausage usually made from beef), cacik (thick garlicky yoghurt with cucumber), sigara borek (a feta cheese filling wrapped in pastry and deep fried), lamb chops, ribs and shish (different cuts of lamb grilled over charcoal), iskender kebab (in which pieces of adana kofte and bread are combined with tomato sauce, yoghurt and melted butter), and meat mussaka (minced lamb with aubergines, potatoes, and vegetables layered with bechamel and cheese). Friends have ordered and loved the Anatolian chicken (chicken and mushrooms in a creamy cheese sauce served with mashed potato), the charcoal grilled monk fish with avocado salad and rice or chips), and the charcoal grilled tiger prawns.

A great option if you’re visiting with a group is to order one of the Anatolian sets which are generous platters of grilled meats served with rice and salad. These are perfect for sharing amongst meat lovers!

One of the Anatolian mixed sets Turkish bread with cacik, sujuk and halloumi One of the Anatolian mixed sets
1st and 2nd are Anatolian mixed sets, in the centre, Turkish bread with cacik, sucuk and halloumi

On the drinks front Anatolian offers the usual full bar covering softs, beers (including Efes on draft), spirits, wines and cocktails, and it’s great to see that the wine list includes Turkish wines as well as global choices.

We rarely have space for dessert, but when we do I tend to favour baklava or sutlac (a Turkish baked rice pudding).

Black tea with sugar in traditional Turkish glass

As well as good service from staff and high quality standards for the food, Semih and Aydin love to provide entertainment for customers. After 9pm on some weekends they put on a DJ, or belly dancer, and customers can eat whilst enjoying the music, singing, and dancing. Check their Facebook page or give them a call to find out when they are next doing this.

For those of you who prefer it a bit more quiet, go at lunch or earlier of an evening!

You’ll need to make several visits to explore the excellent menu but you’ll probably be hooked after the first one!

Semih and I chat after lunch one day and he tells me he was “born for this job, and its his dream” to run successful, popular restaurants. Luckily for us, his friend Aydin had already moved to the area, which is how Semih came to choose Abergavenny for the location of Anatolian.

We talk more about what it’s like running the restaurant, and the challenges faced by the industry. “I feel like I’m a José Mourinho in charge of the football team, it’s not easy when you don’t have the right staff. Some people might think our kitchen is like Iceland microwave food, but it’s not – we cook fresh. You can tell the difference! We have an open plan kitchen design, you can see the chefs, and they have high standards. We all have high standards.

Because we have a very good name in London, when I need staff they come, they know we’ll look after them. Happy staff, happy customers, you know? When on duty we give staff good food, generous payment, they can take food home after their shifts… I’ve worked for restaurants in London (he mentions a British chain) where they don’t even like to give staff a bottle of water, let alone food.

There are challenges, sometimes you’ll be short of staff on a busy weekend. And social media is hard – we have really high scores on tripadvisor and google, but there are always a few people who complain or post fake reviews. But the best thing is when customers come and they feel happiness, I see their smiles, I shake their hands…

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2 Comments to "Anatolian Turkish Restaurant, Abergavenny"

  1. Pina (One Two Culinary Stew)

    Loved reading this, especially the little interview at the end. It’s always great to hear from the owners. The food looks delicious – I would totally go for the Anatolian set! It all looks so good and the interior is so charming.


    Thanks Pina, was lovely to catch up a bit more with Semih, having always exchanged pleasantries, it was good to learn more about his history and how the restaurant came to be here!


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