The name of new restaurant and take away Grill Republic was inspired by both the grill of the food and the country of origin as Republic represents the Turkish Republic. The menu of new Grill Republic features sensational street rolls and there's a story behind those too. Panning down the list there is a hot-potch of numbers: #10 Baliekesir, #14 Bolu, #70 Karaman, #36 Kars, #06 Ankara, #33 Mersin, #59 Terkidag, #16 Bursa, #34 Istanbul, #38 Kayseri, #31 Hatay, in that order. But it's not quite a random jotting. The numbers actually mean something. In Turkey, co-owner Alper (Alex) Buharali explains, each of the car number plates are assigned the same first two numbers to designate the city of origin. A bit like our two number phone code 02 for Sydney, 03 for Melbourne I say. So the Grill Republic story continues. The numbers each represent a Turkish city, and the street roll represents the food of that city. I'm already fascinated.
Then I learn that Alex had 5 or 6 restaurants in Turkey. And he's been thinking about how to do this, and looking for the right location, and business partner, since coming to Sydney.
On the Grill Republic wall a video runs continuously. It's showing Turkish street scenes, of Turkish street food, the inspiration behind the casual eat in or take away menu here. Everything else is thoughtful at the newly opened Hunters Hill restaurant too. China plates are purposefully mismatched on each table and add a pop of colour to the black white and red scheme. The grill is behind glass but the kitchen can be seen from the tables. The chairs have a comfortable wood seat mounted in their steel frames. As a local I can't believe the transformation from the frumpy previous café. Business partners Serhan (Sam) Pazar and Alex Buharali have done well.
To start our lunch we try some of the mezes. Hummus, Tzatziki (Jajik), Red capsicum, Babaghanush are all just five bucks each. A trio is $12. It's really tasty food and we order from the Specialties. Honey halloumi ($11.50) comes from Tilba and is the best I've tasted. The restaurant ran out and Alex had to do a run to Tilba earlier that day to keep the supply up for the weekend. Now that's commitment to quality. Falafel and Kibbeh are tasty and each $9. Yet at that same price is one of the most delicious snacks to be had. Green Bean Bruschetta, I learn, is a recipe from his Mum, and Alex had the Chef keep adjusting it until he got it just right. Across the protein the rounded metal bowls hold Chicken, Lamb (backstrap), Kofte or Beef Shashlik. And they're served with pickles and tzatziki and bread. There's enough there for me for a meal but others order the Family Feast - a choice of 3 proteins, 2 sides, 2 meze, 1 salad and 2 Baklava - at $75. They've chosen chips but we've bumped into other restaurant industry friends across the room and they recommend the Bulgur Pilaf ($4). The fluffy seasoned bulgar is light and entertaining, and not the courser harder cracked wheat that I know. Apparently there are different grades. At Grill Republic Bulgar Pilaf is green light go.
Somehow though I feel the Street rolls ($10.50 -$12.50) are the stars of this show. We're having a late lunch, 2pm on Saturday and we linger here at the BYO for hours. (Sam and Alex have wine glasses; just ask.) All afternoon although Grill Republic has been opened just one week, people come in for take away rolls. The bread is freshly hand (not machine) made stone baked and it's just gorgeously addictive. Then add thoughtful well crafted produce as the fillings by city specialty and Grill Republic has a winner.
Istanbul is a city that is surrounded 3/4 by water so it is no wonder that the #34 Istanbul roll features fish fillets. I'm quite full by the time we try these. We cut the roll in half. And although I mean to take just a mouthful to try it, I found myself eating it all. It isn't just the bread that is addictive. #34 Istanbul fish fillets, sumac, onions, mixed greens, parsley, lemon and olive oil is a marvellous combination.
There's also a choice of three generous salads with the same numbering principle. #07 Antalya #35 Izmir or #52 Ordu. At eleven bucks Ordu is the most expensive and it's laden with spinach, beetroot, hazelnuts, chickpeas, carrots, feta cheese, pomegranate sauce and sultanas. So now I know that Ordu is the leading producer of hazelnuts in Turkey. Who needs a geography lesson?