Finding an independent restaurant is like searching for that proverbial needle in a fat chain haystack, as most cities are a desert of independence.
Chichester has succumbed to the unstoppable march of the chains too and those bucking the corporate trend are now down to a small handful.
Raise a glass therefore, to a smattering of great independent eateries: El Castizo, Marco’s, Woodie’s, Amelie & Friends and joining this small band is Efes, a tiny Turkish restaurant.
Named after Ephesus – the ancient city of biblical fame – Efes does also have an outpost in Worthing, but two restaurants maketh not a chain; particularly when they’re this size.
A large photo of one of the Ephesian ruins covers one wall while Turkish decorative carpets adorn the others, and a few generic artefacts decorate the tiny two floor space. High-back burgundy chairs add to the muted look with burgundy tassles uniformly lining a beam. Service from well-dressed, smiling male staff is warm and friendly.
The menu is as you’d expect if in Turkey or at one of the many Turkish restaurants in the UK.
Hummus, crushed chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil; vine leaves stuffed with rice, onion, pine nuts and herbs; cacik, that wonderfully refreshing yoghurt with cucumber, garlic and mint and the famous baba ganouch, loosely translated as ‘father of pestle’ made from aubergine purée with tahini, lemon and garlic.
You’ve spotted the trend, lots of olive oil, garlic and lemon are used and all these dishes are vegetarian. But vegetarianism takes a back seat with the main courses.
Kofte, meatballs and Albanian liver are on offer as well as a smattering of fish (calamari, whitebait) to kick off a meal before reaching the kebabs. Cubes of marinated lamb, or chicken and minced lamb (Adana) sit alongside mixed kebabs and lamb chops.
You can also choose from one of the specialities including Iskender kebab; lamb minced meat or chicken shish on toasted bread with tomato sauce and butter.
Moussaka and falafel are available for vegetarians and for those of you who can’t live without sweets, there is baklava.
Prices range from £4.45 for starters to £14.95 with many mains around £10 - £11.
I shared some excellent hummous, cacik and baba ganoush with friends, their authenticity not questioned by any of the three of us who count Turkey as a coveted holiday destination.
The bread – cooked in a clay oven – could have been better sourced and plumper, but a rough Turkish wine was perfectly acceptable.
We didn’t stray into the specialities, preferring the simpler dishes. Everyone opted for charcoaled lamb, the typical choice of animal in Turkish cuisine, served with couscous and salad, neither of which shone (the couscous was too dry, the salad ingredients not top quality and lacked any dressing).
The meat, however, was beautifuly marinated in herbs, spices and olive oil. It was a perfect reminder of Ephesus and, more recently, Efes, to which I would return for an uncomplicated Turkish meal in charming surroundings.
Per head: around £23 including wine but not a tip.
Efes, 14 Southgate, Chichester, PO19 1ES 01243 696300 Open 12 noon to 11pm every day.
Disabled access: steps up to restaurant, narrow interior.
Getting there: Take A27 east to Chichester, exit at Witterings roundabout, pass the station and continue on to Southgate, restaurant on the left. Use the public car park in Theatre Lane as there is no on-street parking available.
FOOD Four Stars (out of five)
SERVICE Four Stars (out of five)
ATMOSPHERE Four Stars (out of five)