“When we get to Saklıkent Gorge, some friends have told us to go to this restaurant over the bridge for lunch because it’s only 10 lira and it’s really good,” enthused our friends as we sat on the dolmuş, waiting to leave Fethiye.
“The only thing is, you’ve got to get there before the jeep safaris arrive, otherwise it’s really crowded.”
My mind immediately wandered back to the time, 3 or 4 years previously, when we had all piled out of jeeps at that very restaurant, slapped buffet food on our plates and plonked ourselves down at a table in school-dinner-fashion.
We all wolfed the food down and then we were out of there as quickly as we had arrived.
All of a sudden, the expectations I had of our upcoming, lazy Saklıkent lunch by the water were pushed away and replaced by disappointing canteen images.
By the time we arrived at Saklıkent, we were too hungry to care about where or what we might be eating and headed straight across the bridge in search of Kayıp Cennet Restaurant.
We didn’t need to look far as we were faced with this not unnoticeable sign as soon as we rounded the bend. And there were the rows and rows of tables I remembered from years before, waiting for the masses.
Thankfully, they were currently empty.
A waitress greeted us and confirmed that the price was indeed 10 lira. “Choose anything you want from the buffet, then you can choose between chicken, trout or köfte and we’ll cook it on the barbecue for you.
There’s some seating over there by the river if you like.” So, we didn’t have to sit at the rows of tables, after all? Things were looking up.
The waitress passed us a tray with two plates on it.
Now, what do you do when you go to a buffet? Us, we’ve got to try a bit of everything and there was a lot to choose from!
The first section of the fridge had a crunchy salad of red and white cabbage, spaghetti, bean salad, lightly spiced Turkish potato salad, bulgur wheat and a white bean salad (that was not quite piyaz).
Plate 2 was duly piled high with a wonderful roasted aubergine and sweet red pepper salad (oodles of olive oil!), I skipped the pasta, an extra large spoonful of delightful, spicy Antep Ezmesi (it was homemade, hand chopped and closely resembled our Antep Ezmesi recipe), spicy pickled cauliflower salad, and a sauerkraut salad.
Oh, and I just had to take a wedge of bread as well. We all headed towards the seating by the river, heavy trays in hand.
All of us had taken the opportunity to sample just about everything on offer – well, it just looked so good.
Weaving through the rows of tables, we arrived at the seating built over the river. Perfect!
Ice cold bottles of Efes Pilsen were brought to our tables as we made ourselves comfortable on the cushions and all of a sudden we were very popular with the beautiful white ducks that were swimming along the river.
As we began to tackle the feasts we had served ourselves, we remembered we still had our köfte to come, too.
With all the food offered at the buffet and the low price being charged for it, logic told us it would just be a small plate perhaps with a couple of köfte looking lost in the middle of it.
Somehow, we managed to get through all of our food – although I did give most of my bread to the ducks – and it left us struggling to finish our beers, but we got there, eventually….
This is the sort of place where you take your time, lounging on the cushions between mouthfuls and dipping your feet into the river.
It all made for one of the best lunches we’ve had in a long, long time.
Eventually, the time came to move on so we hauled ourselves up from our cushions and went to pay…and as we did so, the jeeps descended.