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Orontes West: serving yoghurt with a smile since 2008

The menu featured a starter with the rather sexy name ‘Ispanak’. It makes me think of flying carpets, pharaohs and Arabian nights spent in the dessert… Only it turned out to be spinach and yoghurt. ‘You’re going to have to sell me more than a sexy name to get me to eat breakfast yoghurt for dinner,’ said my dining buddy. He had a point.

So we ordered two pastries instead: one filled with spiced lamb, the other with feta and parsley. I was gratified to discover that the former came with some yoghurt concoction, too. In fact, savoury cheesy-meaty pastry thingies go down a treat with yoghurt. Even Mister Anti-Yoghurt thought so.

Dinner continued with grilled bream and a mixed grill of marinated chicken, lamb cutlets and a lamb skewer. The meat was well-seasoned; the fish was fresh; nothing was overcooked. It all came with bulgar wheat and chips (not in the same dish), as well as a basic salad. Turkey’s answer to Heston Blumenthal is was not. But at only €30 a head, what it was deserves a second visit: well cooked, simple, generous food served with…

… well, served with service. And this is the real point of my post: we had a drink within two minutes of our arrival. Not only that: we had menus, a carafe of water, pita bread with some kind of sun-dried tomato tapenade. Something was off the menu, but we were recommended something else instead. We were sitting on the terrace, but it turned chilly after our starters, so we moved inside. Our drinks and food were carried in without fuss. We decided not to order dessert, and were presented with a complimentary dish of baklava from the kitchen. The waitress even smiled quite a lot. We left slightly more than a 10% tip.

If you live in America and you happen to be reading this, I imagine you’re thinking: ‘what kind of a food critic is this woman? She’s describing the basic job spec of waiting staff in dull and meticulous detail. And I’m supposed to be interested why?’ If you live in England, you’re probably thinking: ‘Ok, this sounds nice enough, but what’s the big deal?’. If you live in the Netherlands – or, let’s re-phrase that: if you live in Amsterdam – you’ve probably fallen off your chair by now. This level of service is not unheard of, but it’s rare. And for €30, it’s almost unimaginable.

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Orontes West (Middle Eastern)
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