An authentic village eatery: Şelale Restaurant: Üzümlü
MUĞLA – Hürriyet Daily News
Şelale Restaurant in the center of Üzümlü Village, near Fethiye in southwestern Turkey, is not the sort of place you would normally expect to see reviewed but nevertheless it should be. Tucked away in the corner of a car park, next to the village mosque and perched above a scrupulously clean public toilet are some narrow steps that lead to one of the most unusual and idiosyncratic eateries in Üzümlü, if not Muğla.
After ascending the steps, one bursts into another and totally unexpected world, which for a moment freezes the newcomer. Someone with an obsessive love of concrete has been at work, leaving no corner untouched. What hasn’t been sculpted into strange curlicues or waterfalls is covered with vines, from which gourds dangle. The scene, lit by random spotlights, is breathtakingly unexpected and surprisingly entrancing.
This was all the work of one family: Nazif Doğan and family. The highlight of a visit here is actually just that – the family – because for all the attempts at making this into a restaurant, this is in fact a family’s home. And this is exactly what is makes it special. Guests are literally being invited into a private world of bygone Üzümlü, with a little twist here and there. Add to that the joy of being a customer in such a unique environment and the experience is truly unforgettable.
On one given evening, each shadowy corner of the extended family’s house contains what can only be described as a series of rural vignettes, ones that have probably remained little changed for hundreds of years. The shalwared women were squatting or sitting crossed-legged on blankets, sorting out peppers and aubergines, ready for pickling or drying. The chef was kneading dough for bread and pide. The grandmother was working at her loom in the corner.
Another man was chopping up fuel for the large wood-burning oven that was beginning to heat up and dominated the scene. A girl bent over a broom made of twigs and swept the floor and in another corner a group of quietly speaking visitors finished their meal. The waterfall that filled one wall of the garden drowned out the noises of the village. Occasionally from the midst of the greenery that surrounded it, a small tree frog hopped away to another part of the garden, noticed only by a cat with eyes like amber.
A menu is offered but very often there is the possibility of eating something the women made earlier for their families; on the evening in question the special dishes that supplemented the menu were a simply delicious roasted aubergine salad and aubergine stuffed with bulgur (cracked wheat) and a mixed salad. Later came a tasty mixed pide, which was well-cooked and delicious. Fruit or something sweet and syrupy finished off the meal.
The whole meal is village food at its best but the crowning glory is, oddly enough, the bread, which is soft, full of bran and very moist, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. Many visitors buy some extra to take home for breakfast.
The restaurant phone number is 0252 665 5786.