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Eating Out: Saray


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Right. Where to start on this one? Allow me to consult my full page of notes. I don't normally make notes, but there is so much I need to say I don't want to leave anything out.

Have you ever been to a wedding where you felt like you really didn't belong? Like you were chucked on the table of rejects, singles or children and didn't really know quite how to react?

I'd like to say I went to a wedding, I really would. But I just went out for dinner, with 2 friends and Rob to celebrate my birthday about 4 months later than the day. My friends Adrian and Mette are down from Sweden for 6 months and wanted to take Rob and myself out for dinner to celebrate my day of birth. Of course I agreed and was rather excited by the possibility of great Turkish food since I'm really into Middle Eastern cuisine at the moment. Adrian had sent me the link to the website of Saray, and it looked really posh and amazing.

So lets start from the start. Adrian had called up to book. The restaurant had called Adrian the morning we were due to dine to confirm said booking. We arrived at the restaurant, and I thought "Oh look, there is a wedding going on!". And clearly there was some kind of function as there were balloons on some tables, but we were told to go upstairs to the dining area.
We got upstairs, and told the waitress about the booking expecting to be promptly seated and looked after. Instead, they couldn't find the booking. After a bit of fluffing around and assuring them they called Adrian to confirm, one waiter went downstairs to see if he could find the booking. Whilst this was going on, we were wondering if we would even get a seat because the place looked like it was set up for a wedding. Not soon after that, we realised, this was the normal decor. Including the over sized fish bowls with roses in them. The waiter couldn't find the booking either, but we were still seated to a table and we sat and talked for a while.

Then 2 jugs of warm soft drink arrived; Pub Squash and L.A. Ice cola. We went to pour the drinks into the wine glasses on the table; 2 out of the 4 wine glasses had prominent lipstick marks on them, and the other glasses was just filthy. We did a sneaky and swapped them with the table next to us.

So after we had been talking for quite some time, observing the staff, which appeared to be completely disorganised, we finally managed to catch the waitress' eye to ask for a menu. Instead she came to our table with pen and paper in hand expecting us to order. I had to kindly ask if we could perhaps see a menu. She brought over 1 menu for the 4 of us.

So after all of this, we decided to go with the $30 set menu. Adrian was optimistic and guessed the bread would take about 5 minutes to arrive after ordering. We then later took bets on when the mains, and desserts would arrive.

Breads, dips (6 varieties), tabbouleh, beans, roasted eggplant, vine leaves and some kind of hash brown things came out after about 20 minutes. The waiter just walked around the table placing the plates all around us, not explaining ANYTHING. So we had no idea what anything was, and proceeded to do the taste test. The best part was the bread was bottomless. Dips were alright, tabbouleh had no seasoning or flavour, it was rather disappointing. The bread was hot and fresh, it's no wonder it's bottomless, they hope you fill up on it, and it's probably a good thing you do, cos you'll be waiting a while for your mains to come.

We arrived fairly early to everyone else, yet our food came out the same time as everyone else's, so that's probably why we had to wait so long.

The restaurant was clearly in the middle of renovations. The stairs were freshly sanded, the air conditioning as you can see here demonstrated by Adrian was not fitted properly. It also went from hot to cold to hot to cold constantly which was annoying. The dirty dishes from the table next to us weren't cleared for at least 2 hours, we know we were there about 3-3.5 hours! Apparently the toilets were identified by pieces of masking tape.

The mains arrived in 2 separate batches. First the "doner kebab". The lashing of tomato paste and yoghurt was a little off putting at first, but the meat itself was delicious. A real kebab flavour. Unfortunately, when "kebab" is written on the menu, one would expect a little bit of pita bread to eat it with.

About 30 minutes later we got the chicken skewers, lamb skewers and lamb chops.

Adrian showed us his miniature lamb chop, and all I could hear was Gordon Ramsay going off in my head from Hell's Kitchen "What the F is this? This isn't an effing lamb chop!! Come on!!". Poor Adrian, he was really looking forward to it. Everyone enjoyed them, but mine tasted like it was off, so I pushed it to the side. The chicken skewers were delicious though, moist and succulent. We should have been offered more when the guy with the meat platter was walking around. Lots of tables got 2nds and 3rds offered, but not us.

Turkish music was played in the background. Not in a subtle background music kind of way, more in a "I'm going to make you deaf so you can't sustain a conversation with the members of your table" kind of way.
Then all of a sudden, the belly dancer appears.

I have nothing against belly dancers. I admire them for having the confidece to be able to get up and shake their booty and all that. This belly dancer had THE fakest set of breasts I'd ever seen. And you can only guess how she paid for them too with all the tips she was getting. She shaked her thing for what seemed an eternity. When she went away we resumed our waiting for dessert. Adrian and Mette went up and had a bit of a dance with the other customers then came back.

We had to flag down the waitress again to request dessert. Our table was cleared slowly then the dessert arrived:

Mette had the Turkish Delight and she said it was good. The rest of us had the baklava. I'd have to say it wasn't the best. There was far too much syrup, and just sickly sweet. I know baklava is sweet, and I do enjoy a good baklava, but this my friends, was not.

Then we requested the bill, and our teas arrived. The tea was so strong and bitter because they had left the tea bag in. We just left them and went home for a nice cup of tea.

Some things I have left out whilst typing away:
- there was a moth that flew around for the majority of the evening
- no napkins were supplied, we had to request them
- the meat was brought up from downstairs on a big platter and shared amongst tables. It was rather impersonal and I wasn't really impressed by this
- we asked the waiter to remove the fish bowl from our table so we could fit all the food, his solution was to put it on the floor next to our table.
- wait staff had no idea what they were doing. there seemed to be 2 waiters doing things together since neither had any idea what was going on or they would be fighting by the bar
- the cheesy photographer was an Indian man in a very 70's suit and greased us off when we said we didn't want our photo taken. All I can say is, "Mate, I have a far better camera than yours and I can take photos of me and my friends any day, and not pay you $20 for it."
- there were also two Asian girls coming around throughout the evening selling roses. Why on earth you would buy one when they were freely available on the table beats me

The good things were:
- we got heaps of food for $30 each
- most of the food was really quite nice

I'd say this restaurant is more of a Turkish social club, and not a restaurant you'd go to for a nice social dinner where you want to have lots of conversation. But in the end, it's the company that makes the meal, and I couldn't think of better people to have had this experience with. We all agreed, we won't be going back. I'd rather go back to Lezzet for my Turkish fix.

Thank you again, Adrian and Mette for this remarkable dinner!

Saray on Urbanspoon


OMG! Will not put this place on my list of places to eat when I'm next in Melbourne. The only plus is that it gave you some great material for your blog!

Wow, what a review. Sounds like old Gordon would have a field day there.

The combination of ice cream with either turkish delight or baklava seems a bit odd?

My first thought when seeing the decor was "Who's getting married?"!

It's always irritating that a meal takes so long when there is no real reason for it. At least some of the food was good, but what an awful experience for out of town visitors! I hope you took them somewhere else as well to show them what good Melbourne dining is supposed to be like!

Hi Kyla - Please make sure this one makes your list indeed!! I find the more terrible the place, the better I write!

Hi Conor - Gordon would certainly have had a field day! God knows what goes on in the kitchen!!
I though the ice cream was a little odd too!

Hi Rilsta - Well Adrian used to live here and picked the restaurant. He said it looked nice and the website sure made it look nice! But we all had a good laugh at it, and the food wasn't bad, so it was a fun night out!

Oh dear. Sounds like a disaster from beginning to end! :( And what's with places decorated as if they were done for a wedding? hehe.

I wonder what the wedding couple thought of it too!

Wooooow!! The word that comes to mind when looking at all your photos is "CONFUSED"....They have classy tables but the most trashy looking *cough*stripper*cough bellydancer ever. Ahem.

Teehehee. What a strange place. I enjoyed reading that! :-D

Hi Lorraine - Haha! It was a very amusing disaster. I'm glad we could laugh about it!

Hi Esz - Confused is definitely a good word to use! The stripper woman was also very drag looking, I wondered if it was a man!
Glad you enjoyed reading it though!

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