Bulgur salad was one of the best I’ve tasted

Bodrum Restaurant in Albert Road, Southsea.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123939-3182)
Bodrum Restaurant in Albert Road, Southsea.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123939-3182)

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Bodrum , a city in the southwestern Aegean region of Turkey, was called Halicarnassus of Caria in ancient times and was famous for housing the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Bodrum Castle, built by the Crusaders in the 15th century, overlooks the harbour and the marina.

The other Bodrum - and there are bound to be plenty more – is a restaurant in Southsea specialising in Turkish and Greek classic cooking. The family-owned business is simple and understated, not looking like great shakes from the outside with its brash signage and non-descript window display.

Open the stiff glass doorto find yourself in a square room with a tree at its centre, its overhanging branches cascading with tiny clusters of pale green flowers. Around the tree are rows of simple wood tables and chairs in regimental style, no fripperies. Charming Turkish music of the sorrowful kind plays, the service equally appealing by family members or other smart foreign non-Turkish staff.

Anyone who has been to Bodrum or anywhere in Turkey will not be fazed by the delightful menu which includes cold mezes – houmus; mixed pickle; feta cheese salad; yoghurt and cucumber with garlic and mint; bulgur salad; aubergine grill; stuffed vine leaves; and spinach tarator. Hot mezes cover the Turkish territory with kalamari; courgette patties; stuffed kofte; filo wraps with cheese.

Meat dishes are Sultan’s Delight (Hunkar Begendi, lamb fillet in a tomato sauce on aubergine puree); lamb shank; sautéed chicken with carrots, apricots, almonds, raisins, honey and lemon. There are salads, and a remarkable selection of vegetable dishes and seafood choices, with prices ranging from around £3.50 for a starter to £15 for the mixed grill, most mains falling into the £10 category.

They all come with salad and rice or homemade bread. It’s bargain food. There’s a lunchtime deal too of great merit, possibly unrivalled in the area: two courses for £6.95.

The bulgur salad was one of the best this aficionado has come across, even the famed London Tas restaurant one not hitting the mark compared to Bodrum’s. Cracked wheat, with peppers, celery, copious parsley, spices and tomato were made to sing with the addition of chilli. This moreish dish, served simply on a small white plate circa 1970 (no trendy plates here, just genuine food) with slices of carrot and cucumber, came with warm flat bread.

While the charcoal was being heated up for the main course, a lamb kebab with salad and rice, I ate the excellent marinated lamb, the perky green salad with tomatoes and rice and continued with mixed pickles from a starter for added bite. Cabbage, green tomatoes, gherkins and carrot, all pickled and puckled from the vinegar, were superb. Turşucu, pickle sellers, sell tubs of them on Turkish streets in winter, a favourite snack when in Istanbul.

I drank Ayran, a yoghurt drink with added salt, an acquired taste at first but it grew on me. An excellent Turkish coffee finished the meal.

Bodrum has its own unique authentic treasures – very good food and hospitality - which lurk behind the faceless façade in abundant charming fashion. My bill came to just over £15 not including a tip. Excellent value.

Bodrum Restaurant, 165 Albert Road, Southsea PO4 0JW, (023) 9282 9707. Open seven days a week.

Disabled access: Great.

How to get there:

The restaurant is halfway down Albert Road on the same side as the Wedgewood Rooms and opposite Leopold Street. Parking is available on the street.

Ratings (max = *****)

FOOD ****