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Setting up Angora, with his wife Virsen, in Takapuna, has been a lifelong dream. “When I first came to New Zealand, we lived on the Shore. I travelled in between but always knew one day we would be back. There is something special about living on the Shore,” he adds and Virsen nods in agreement.
This award-winning talented chef has worked all over the world; from New York to Istanbul and Australia. He has taken the root of his culture’s traditional cooking and brought it to Takapuna with an al-a-carte menu fit for a sultan.
“Unfortunately when people think of Turkish food – they think of the kebab –we are not a kebab shop!” He exclaims. “I want to change that mindset and show that Turkish cuisine can be more than just a kebab. So I have studied and researched 1000-year-old recipes that Sultans would have served up in their time and added my own ideas to create my unique recipes,” he says.
What he hasn’t learnt from ancient recipes, he learnt from his mother. He said: “Traditionally, mothers in Turkey will pass on their skills and recipes to their daughters – my mother didn’t have a daughter – she had me!” He laughs, as he reminisces about his time with his mother and where he found his love of cooking. “I just love it….some people go to bed dreaming about money or something, I dream about food,” he enthuses.
His passion for cooking and serving up delicious mouth-watering morsels are evident in his ingredients, believing that everything should be absolutely fresh as much as possible.
“I only buy quality meat and ingredients, as I want my customers to taste their food. By using fresh ingredients and quality products, meats don’t overpower sauces and visa versa, rather they compliment each other,” he advises.
And he makes everything from scratch! “Everything that I serve should be natural – why buy a sauce when you can make it? Or why buy bread when you can bake it?”
Eggplant is traditionally the preferred vegetable for Turks. “We can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner – it is so versatile and delicious,” says Virsen. So it’s not surprising to find that most of their dishes comprise this important ingredient.
You’ll find it on top of a mustard and herb marinated tender lamp rump with the popular Islim Kebabi, or the Hunker Begendi, where chargrilled eye fillet is complimented by a velvety eggplant puree. And in the Imam Bayildi, a much-loved vegetarian delight, you’ll find the vegetable stuffed with onion, garlic, tomatoes and his homemade herb sauce.
But one dish he hopes you will try is the Black Sea Chicken. He said: “It is a special dish that I created with my mother in mind.” The chargrilled chicken thighs are topped with vegetable patties and a special, creamy walnut sauce – the nuts being a favourite of his mother’s.
With hints of their Turkish heritage around the restaurant, Orhan and Virsen have created a welcoming, homely space. You’ll find century-old scenes from their homeland framed on terracotta coloured walls and kilim-inspired cushioned seats and wall hangings scattered about, with the soft sounds of traditional Turkish music in the background. “We are like a little Turkey…when customers come to our restaurant, I like to think they feel they are coming to my home.”
His modern take on ancient recipes are certainly drawing the people in, and his hands-on, traditional cooking is certainly achieving what Orhan has set out to do; changing the mindset that Turkish cuisine is not just the kebab – at least not here on the Shore!
Angora Restaurant, 174 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna Ph: 09 486 3739,
Fb: angoratakapuna. Open Mon – Fri, Lunch 11.30am – 2.30pm, Dinner 5pm to late
Sat- Sun, 11.30am to late. BYO wine only. Dine in and takeout
We are now taking bookings for Christmas functions
Channel Magazine: Issuu 49 November 2014