192 Pitt Street, Glasgow G2 4DY. Telephone: 0141 332 5300
Words: Roy Beers
Photography: Craig Young
Burak Soyusinmez, a passionate and committed exponent of one of the world's great traditional cuisines, is a man with a mission.
"When," he asks matter-of-factly, "did you ever hear anyone in Glasgow say 'let's go out and eat Turkish tonight?"
It's an oxymoron, because there simply aren't any Turkish restaurants in the city, or indeed in Scotland, with anything remotely like the ambitious food, drink and music offer he and his team have created, apparently out of thin air, on this two-level site in Pitt Street, a few seconds' walk off Sauchiehall Street.
Quite simply the restaurateur sees the lack of great Turkish cuisine as a major omission in a city rightly famous for the diversity of its dining scene, one he and his colleagues are determined to rectify.
The first introduction to the restaurant is its classical-Hellenic-style portico - a neat reminder, perhaps, of the days before the arrival of the Turks in Anatolia or Kappadoccia, when Alexander of Macedon ruled supreme across Asia Minor.
Inside, rugged exposed stone wall contrasts nicely with a blond wood and Turkey-red design ensemble which immediately, and accurately, conveys the impression of smart fine dining restaurant and cocktail bar.
It's unlikely, incidentally, that any comparable restaurant in Scotland can boast such an impressive and carefully-selected array of drinks to complement the cuisine (and see the linked section, below, on the drinks offer). Vegetarians, meanwhile, may be astonished to find what high store is set on non-meat dishes in Turkish cuisine - which arguably invented then perfected the genre many centuries before it became fashionable in the West (and see the linked article, below, on Alla Turca's cuisine).
The last few years have seen the steady arrival in Glasgow of many engaging new restaurants inspired by the culinary traditions of North Africa and the Mediterranean, and what they all have in common - whether their inspiration is Iranian, Moroccan, Kurdish or even Greek - is a profound affinity with the vast international cuisine of Turkey. There are strong Turkish influences in Georgian traditional cookery, while a simple dish like humous, or hummus (there are as many spellings as there are countries which have this as a menu staple) effectively spans the whole of the Middle East.
Listen to "real" Turkish music, and dine on "real" Turkish food, and if you are of an imaginative disposition you can glimpse in your mind's eye the sumptuous grandeur of the glory days of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The once-mighty Ottoman Empire has left its indelible mark both in Europe and the Near East, in myriad ways ranging from art and architecture to poetry and music - a strong Turkish resonance echoes sibilantly in the ancient tunes of Ukraine and Hungary, Crete and North Africa. It was a fabulously rich cultural movement as much as an empire, and the birth of modern Turkey has only strengthened and given new energy to its enlivening influence.
Until now, however, Glasgow's exuberant and fast-changing dining scene has been largely passed by when it comes to Turkish cuisine. There are perhaps 200 Turkish restaurants in London, of which a handful are perhaps truly excellent, but until now little or nothing here to acknowledge this immense tradition.
Alla Turca is named after the unforgettably catchy tune of the same name by Mozart (it means "The Turkish Melody"), and it soon becomes apparent the restaurant - a "live music restaurant" - is a modern-day ambassador for Turkish culture at its most vibrant and exciting.
It isn't, however, a social club for Turkish people. Its intended audience is, very definitely, the discerning diner whose tastes probably extend to an appreciation of fine wines - a particular strength here - and also the sort of person who wants to experience at leisure the higher-end food culture perhaps glimpsed during a holiday.
Alla Turca has also been designed to appeal specifically to the corporate dining party organiser - or anyone planning a really special celebration party - with a dedicated private suite which offers both intimacy and comfort. This suite accommodates 40, but for larger corporate gatherings the entire restaurant is potentially available to book: the sound system is state of the art, and a plasma screen makes it possible for (as an example) screen presentations to be made before dining.
While there are plenty of ancestral traditional influences in the cuisine the whole spirit of Alla Turca is undeniably modern. The Glasgow trend towards casual fine dining is completely empathetic with the restaurant's effortlessly classy but never stuffy style of service. Alla Turca is subtle, refined, even elegant, and its cuisine - presided over by head chef Kajin Sor - is of the sort you might encounter in a leading edge restaurant in the great modern metropolis of Istanbul. You might have to cover a lot of ground to find anything of comparable quality in London, and might search in vain for a venue there which can also offer "background music" - in this case the entrancing melodies strummed by musician Armagan Alakus - of such entrancing sophistication and depth.
For Glaswegians, and also the increasing stream of visitors who seek out the city's unrivalled dining and drinking scene, a meal at Alla Turca is a journey of exploration into a world of fascinating complementary tastes and food textures: a candlelit oasis of romance and refinement at the busy heart of Scotland's premier fine dining milieu.
The linked sections below elaborate a little on why this restaurant is a genuinely unusual and inspiring arrival on the west Glasgow dining scene, and there is very much more information on Alla Turca's own website, www.allaturca.co.uk where you can also download all of the menus while listening to some hauntingly exotic traditional Turkish music and, of course, that infuriatingly catchy tune by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Enjoy a feast Book a table at Alla Turca - The Turkish Melody