I've been in Brisbane for work, with a side of nostalgic pleasure. I made room in my itinerary for old friends, old neighbourhoods and a few restaurants that are old favourites too. One of them is Caravanserai, a richly decorated Turkish restaurant in West End.
I was keen on the Turkish lemonade with limes, lemon and mint, an enthusiasm that spread round the table and culminated in a jug of the stuff. It had just the right sweet-to-sour ratio, though having now tried a rosewater-tinted version nothing else is quite as spectacular.
I don't know that I've ranted too much about it on this blog but the vegetable stack is one of those dishes that often appears as the sole vegetarian option on a menu. (It seems to have been superseded by gnocchi and/or risotto in recent years, but that's another story...) Though these are occasionally tasty, they are more often bland and poorly cooked, and they are a sign that the resident chef has no love or imagination for their vegetarian customers.
Not so at Caravanserai! Their Sebze ($22.50, described as a stack of chargrilled vegetables) is one of three vego options. And it is fabulous. The eggplant slices and mushroom are meltingly tender and deeply flavoured. The smothering tomato sauce didn't excite my eyes but it was an entirely different story once it hit my taste buds - it has just the right complementary tang of vinegar. Fried strips of haloumi and a wedge of polenta add richness and further contrast, and there's a little fresh greenery to perk it all up.
Dining at Caravanserai isn't cheap, but the food is made with care and the servings are generous (I challenge anyone and everyone to finish the banquet!). Vegans and gluten-free folks are catered for, and service is usually good - on this night we had a terrific and savvy waiter.
Address: 1-3 Dornoch Terrace, West End QLD 4101
Ph: (07) 3217 2617
Price: veg mains $22.50