Back in the days when we all knew and cared what was No 1 in the charts, there were occasional nation-gripping incidents called chart battles and the 1990s period of Britpop proved to be one of the best.

Then it seemed the most pressing question to face in life was whether your favorite band was Blur or Oasis and your answer defined you better than any Ipsos Mori poll ever could.

It wasn’t quite as fractious a question as in my Lochee primary school days when you’d get beaten up for being the “wrong” religion, but vast screeds were written about how your allegiance to either group was as telling as the cut of your jib, the kind of car you drove or whether you recycled your wine bottles and read the Guardian.

Ever the contrarian, my answer to the Blur v Oasis question was always “Suede”.
Happily, one thing everyone always agreed on was that Supergrass were a good thing, even if that meant they never made headlines for trouncing their contemporaries in the charts.

Indeed, the fact everyone liked the group eventually led to them making badges declaring themselves to be “everyone’s second favorite band”.


Milas Kitchen and Bar

What has this trivial pop nonsense got to do with a review of Milas Kitchen and Bar in Dundee?

Well, much as I quite enjoyed our visit here on a rainy, windswept Wednesday, I can’t really work out why I came away a bit underwhelmed, with the nagging feeling that Milas might become my second favorite Turkish restaurant in Dundee, or possibly even my third.

Inside Milas.

First place, of course, remains the acid trip experience that is the Agacan on Perth Road, an iconoclastic riot of color, flavor and sheer madness that has to be experienced to be believed.

Sadly, though, this Blur of the Dundee Turkish restaurant scene is more like a limited- edition Record Store Day experience than a ticket to the Brit awards, because it’s so small you really have to plan a visit well in advance to blag a table.


The venue

No such issues at Milas, which is big and airy – berthed in part of the space on Whitehall Crescent formerly occupied by the wonderful Draffens department store, which closed in 1981.

Apart from housing the iconic Fisher & Donaldson on the opposite side, Whitehall Crescent is now home to a string of restaurants occupying the space where the behemoth Draffens formerly reigned. That they all seem to me to be quite populist crowd-pleasers no doubt reflects their expensive, expansive position in the heart of Dundee while the fact that footfall seems high gives hope for such prime commercial spaces to survive.

However, I have to say that the combined rather soulless visual image of all those big, newish restaurant fronts isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing on a street that was once so grand. More positively though, at least the buildings are being used and I guess that’s some kind of progress in a city with so many frustratingly empty buildings at its
heart.

First impressions of Milas Kitchen are good and the fact they were prefaced by recommendations from trusted friends made our sense of anticipation all the higher.

Posted by Milas Turkish Kitchen & Bar on Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Sadly, I didn’t love it as much as others do, even if it’s hard to explain why – the food we had was fine, the service was lovely, the prices were cheap / reasonable and the space was pleasant enough.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with it.

It just all felt a bit like eating in your second or third favorite Turkish restaurant in Dundee.

To be fair to the restaurant, it seems like they’re happy to build their custom steadily and quietly – without any hype. There’s no website and their Instagram feed has a total of two images. The Facebook page has the menus and a few other posts, but not much. A request from The Courier to send a photographer to take pictures to accompany this piece was met with a polite no – because they want the place to remain low key.

None of the above is bad, although some might say it shows naivete in this age of social media and online information. I mean, this is a time when it’s easy and cheap to set up a website, although of course you do need someone to constantly update it.

I think this would be beneficial here because simply having photographs of the menu on Facebook doesn’t give a great impression – the menus in the restaurant are “artfully” stained to look as if they’ve had food or a Bunsen burner unleashed on them and this just doesn’t translate visually online, where they just look like they’ve been trampled underfoot.

The first thing to note is that this place is popular and appears to get a lot of repeat custom. We had booked but there seems to be a high proportion of walk-ins, including two guys who had been the night before and liked it so much they returned for more.

The feel is casual and friendly, with a notably enthusiastic staff. Our waitress, a lovely young woman from Wigan (sorry, I know this sounds like the start of a limerick, but it’s not) was ace – friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. She is literally the only person ever to say that she didn’t expect any tip when I was hurriedly trying – and failing – to find some real cash in my wallet.


The food

Our new friend from Wigan also helped us navigate the menu by suggesting we order the mixed mezze for two (£ 13.95) which she said would be cheaper than us both ordering the same selection a la carte. She was right and this mixed selection is the way to go, as it’s a real bargain.

My initial starter choice of tarama was off the menu, which was a disappointment because a good home-made tarama is a thing of joy – and also an indication of a restaurant’s skill.

Here I quote from the brilliant The Prawn Cocktail Years cookbook by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham, a seminal retro celebration I return to often, and a book which happens to have a very good recipe for taramasalata: “The artificially pink taramasalata encountered in supermarkets, corner shops and some Greek Cypriot restaurants is a far cry from the real thing. Perhaps it is thought that the authentic pale, flesh-colored paste is unattractive to the British people – but it is not to those who know how a true taramasalata should look.

My initial starter choice of tarama was off the menu, which was a disappointment because a good home-made tarama is a thing of joy – and also an indication of a restaurant’s skill.

One of the dishes.

Here I quote from the brilliant The Prawn Cocktail Years cookbook by Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham, a seminal retro celebration I return to often, and a book which happens to have a very good recipe for taramasalata: “The artificially pink taramasalata encountered in supermarkets, corner shops and some Greek Cypriot restaurants is a far cry from the real thing. Perhaps it is thought that the authentic pale, flesh-colored paste is unattractive to the British people – but it is not to those who know how a true taramasalata should look.

“Originally, Greek tarama (salata only means salad) was – and still is – made from dried, salted mullet roe, not smoked. We have to use smoked cod’s roe in our recipe as that is all that’s available.

Murray enjoyed the food, but the service was what made his visit.

“This is naturally a deep orange-red color from the curing and smoking process. Once the other ingredients have been added, this is when the tinge of pale pink begins to emerge ”.

When available, the tarama at Milas (£ 5.25) also normally comes as part of the mixed mezze which we enjoyed, although we had a vegetarian version. This mixed selection is like a greatest hits of cold mezze featuring humus, sakska, ispanac tarator (steamed spinach with yoghurt), yaprak sama (vine leaves) and the aforementioned tarama.

All our vegetarian components were delicious even if vine leaves are part of a short list of foods that have me running for the hills; my culinary nightmares are made of tripe, shop-bought mayonnaise, salad cream, tomato ketchup and stuffed vine leaves.

David’s halloumi (£ 5.50) was from the short list of hot starters and was delicious. He ate this as his version of a main course and didn’t feel at all short-changed because the mixed mezze starter was so filling and could have fed three people instead of two.

More of what he tried.

Good homemade bread is plentiful.

I think I ordered wrongly for my main course, although I still quite enjoyed it. My lamb casserole (£ 14.95) was pretty rustic, which is of course no bad thing – but it was just too one dimensional for me, both in terms of flavor and texture.

I think I ordered wrongly for my main course, although I still quite enjoyed it. My lamb casserole (£ 14.95) was pretty rustic, which is of course no bad thing – but it was just too one dimensional for me, both in terms of flavor and texture.

The halloumi.

Served with rice, this was a dish that could have benefited from a little less uniformity, both in the presentation and in the texture. The lamb was sliced ​​thinly and served in a rich sauce, topped by some yoghurt and parsley. For me, it was just too much – each mouthful the same and each incursion into the mound of meat seemingly causing it to multiply on the plate.

We finished with a huge portion of Baklava (£ 6) from a short list of desserts recited by one of the waiters (there’s no dessert menu).

Our total food bill came to £ 40.40 which seems very reasonable to me.


The verdict

I feel pretty mean for not raving about this place, which is serving good, freshly cooked food in the center of Dundee. It’s so obviously a good thing, and we need more places like this opening up in the center of town.

But sometimes, just as in relationships, things happen to make you unhappy or unfulfilled and occasionally it’s not even your partner’s fault. But gut feeling and mood and instinct are very powerful parts of our armory and sometimes it’s just impossible to explain why you didn’t connect with a place.

I would definitely go back some time – but I’d probably return with a gang of people when we could embrace more the communality of shared small plates.

For me, then, Milas might have to be the Supergrass of Turkish cuisine in Dundee, even if it tops the charts for many others. As the romantic cliche goes, maybe it’s not them, it’s me.


Information

Address: Milas Kitchen and Bar, 5 Whitehall Street, Dundee, DD1 4AA
T: 01382 203777
IN:

Price: Starters from £ 4.50 (mixed mezze for two is £ 13.95); mains from £ 12.75; desserts approximately £ 6

Scores:

  • Food: 4/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 4/5

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