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Fes: Turkish for beginners

The new restaurant by Südstern might not be the most authentic Turkish spot in town, but it's good for a fun night out of DIY grilling.

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Photo courtesy of Fes

As a dutiful Berlin foodie, you’ve gobbled your way around the city from Thai Park to Industry Standard, Chutnify to District Mot. But aside from the occasional döner at Mustafa’s or Imren, you’re ashamed to admit you’ve got a blind spot when it comes to Turkish food.

Yes, you’ve passed Doyum and Adana, those packed grill houses around Kottbusser Tor, but intimidated by the Instagram-unfriendly lighting and the chance that you’ll order wrong and wind up with a plate of kidneys, you’ve skipped rubbing shoulders with real Ausländer over a piece of real kebab cooked by the natives.

Just off Südstern, the entry-level Turkish restaurant you’ve been waiting for opened in July. It announces its intentions straight away with a neon sign proclaiming “Fes Turkish BBQ”. No hard-to-pronouce “Okacbasi” here. The interior follows the hipster-chic handbook down to the letter: brick walls, copper pipes, hanging bare lightbulbs, tasteful ‘Oriental’ prints on the chairs and benches and a chalkboard wall explaining how to drink raki.

Potted rosemary plants and clipboard menus grace long wooden tables, and the beyond-friendly waiters will explain every single food item and switch to English at the drop of a hat. The crowd’s stylishly dressed (actually overdressed, for Südstern) and mostly made up of expats and bridge-and-tunnel-looking Germans.

The name of the game at Fes is tabletop barbecue, common in Turkey but probably more familiar to Berlin’s eaterati as a Korean thing. Your order comes as a heap of raw meat slices, which you cook yourself on an electric grill built into your table.

Options include chicken (€11.50- 12.90), lamb (€14.50- 17.90) and Angus beef (€15.90) – no tofu, true, but no kidneys either. Out of the three, the lamb might be the most conducive to novice DIY grilling: impatient eaters can pluck it off the grill early and eat it rare and juicy, while a flavourful rosemary-thyme marinade helps it stay tender enough to stand up to overcooking.

Meat orders only come with rice, meaning you’ve got to order some mezze, appetisers, for a more balanced meal (or any sort of meal, if you’re a vegetarian). They’re between €4.90-5.90 a pop, so your best bet is almost definitely the three-for-€11.90 deal. Just take care not to order too many with “garlic-yoghurt sauce” in the description as, whether with herbs, cheese or carrots and zucchini, the flavours tend to blend. We were partial to Patlican Sögüs, a fresh-tasting spread with roasted eggplant and peppers. You’ll also see bowls of crispy, veggie-filled mini börek on almost every table.

Our bearded, skinny-jeaned server, proprietor Çem Tanriverdi’s brother, told us that if it wasn’t for German fire regulations they’d be using charcoal grills on the tables, as in their parents’ homeland. Blame the bureaucrats, then, that the meat (and the bread, and the eggplant in that spread, etc.) lacks the delectable smokiness you’d find at a place like Doyum or Adana. It’s up to you whether the fun DIY factor makes up for that.

Our advice? Bring a group of friends, share a bottle of raki (€20/0.2L) and grill away for a night – then, plan on heading to Kotti for some intermediate studies.