For those not in the know, pasha means a higher rank in the Ottoman Empire political and military system, typically granted to governors, generals, dignitaries and others. Hence dining like a pasha is the sort of exceptional dining that’s fit for, well, a pasha. Also the sort of dining experience you’re guaranteed at Pasha Med Turkish Bar and Grill in Bletchley.
There was once a time – only two years ago, believe it or not – if you craved a taste of Turkey, you would have had to meticulously plan a day trip to North London, pack the whole family in the car and speed down the M1 to sit in Saturday afternoon traffic on the North Circular for a mere hour-long dinner, preferably in Haringey, Tottenham or Stoke Newington – the northern neigbourhoods swathes of which have long been take over by the entrepreneurial Turk, with their restaurants, bakeries, butchers lining up the high street and aromas of grilled meat and homely stews luring you in.
It was a similar aroma luring me into the first ever Turkish restaurant which emerged on our side of the world a little over two years ago. Since then, four more have opened doors which makes a whopping five Turkish restaurants for our humble little Milton Keynes.
The latest addition on the Turkish food scene is Pasha Med which I discovered thanks to their heavy rotation radio advertising since late last summer. It took me yet another three months to finally get around to a visit. And was it worth the wait.
The day after my 40th being a Friday, Mr O and I choose that evening for our dinner date and decide to treat ourselves to a taste of Turkey – because, what to do if you can take the girl out of Turkey but you can’t take Turkey out of the girl? Feed her her beloved Turkish food as often as you can, of course!
Situated on Buckingham Road in Bletchley, with parking at the back of the two storey building, Pasha is small but perfectly formed with no frills, minimalist decor – without the signs, and of course the delicious smell of grilled meat, it could be any other restaurant. Don’t expect to find any kitsch posters of Pamukkale and Marmaris in garish frames on the walls. It’s all fresh paint in muted colours.
The staff were just as impressive. Everyone was friendly with attention to detail and speed of service impeccable. The bonus is of course the opportunity to speak one’s own language with a fellow countryman or two.
By the time we are seated, having starved ourselves for the best part of the afternoon both Mr O and I are famished. Bring on the starters then. It’s fortunate that even before we order our starters a complimentary set of snack arrive in the form of goat’s cheese, olives and pepper sauce alongside fluffy Turkish pide. Good thing it does as so rich is the starter menu it takes us another 10 minutes just to settle on a choice each.
I opt for humus kavurma which involves pan cooked diced lamb on a bed of humus. while Mr O picks sauteed king prawns. This side of Istanbul, it mush be the best humus I have tasted in a long time and Mr O is fingers deep in his whole jumbo prawns so a great start all in all.
And because we are there for research and blogging purposes (and not because we are glutton with eyes bigger than bellies) we also order the hot meze to share which offers some of the chef’s favourites – also many a Turk’s meze platter favourites – hamsi (white bait cooked with butter, garlic and white wine) takes centre stage as it is not every Turkish restaurant that serves this Black Sea delicacy while hellim (grilled halloumi), sucuk (Turkish sausage) do not disappoint. Kalamar (calamari) is a little too rubbery for my liking but overall, for those wishing to sample a bit of everything, hot meze platter delivers on most accounts.
For mains, Mr O sticks to the nautical theme with jumbo charcoal grilled prawns and once again falls quite half eating and half battling his dinner. Having found neither Iskender kebab nor Lamb Beyti on the menu, I settle for third best, Yogurt Adana – chargrilled mince lamb on skewers with croutons in tomato sauce topped with yoghurt and butter. It is not bad at all, but possibly falls a couple notches below the real deal you can get back home. I wash down my dinner with a glass (or two!) of Tilia Malbec, a smooth wine experience even for someone like me who’s not a huge fan of red wine.
Even if I am loosening my belt by the end of dinner, not one to admit defeat, I still have eyes for desert, especially when I see Kemal Pasha on the menu – a rarity in many Turkish restaurants on our side of the world, this is a dessert is prepared from a flour dough, unsalted cheese, semolina, egg, water and baking powder. The dough is formed into small balls that are fried and then boiled in syrup. And it definitely makes for a delightfully sweet – but not too sweet – end to our meal.
And of course, the antidote to a tummy full with Turkish food has to be Turkish coffee – which I am pleased to see is served with a tiny morsel of Turkish delight.
All in all, if you are a fan of Turkish food, with its rich flavours, or looking for an option to chain restaurants, and a delightful dining experience in Milton Keynes with an authentic taste of Turkey, look no further than Pasha Med. The owner set up Pasha Med as he was tired of travelling to North London for a taste of real Turkish food and to give us Milton Keynesians an alternative to Anglicised Turkish food – I am delighted to report he’s pulled it off and I will no longer need to travel to North London as Pasha Meds serves up real Turkish food in spades.