On first impressions you might assume Petek is a jewellery shop. Situated in the Rolex Tower in the vicinity of Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Centre, Petek’s striking gold facade adds to the confusion initiated by the large Rolex branding indicative of a shop selling luxury timepieces.
Stepping off the busy street overlooking Abu Dhabi’s Union Square with its super-sized replicas of an Arabic coffee pot and incense burner, Petek feels slightly out of place when compared to the businesses that surround it. The ground floor takes on the guise of a cafe with long display cases seductively showcasing a selection of the finest Turkish pastries and confectionary. There’s also a small counter for purchasing Turkish ice creams in countless flavours and a delicatessen with a pleasing selection of Turkish Delight, of which the rose and pomegranate version shouldn’t be missed.
Despite the casual nature of Petek’s ground floor, take the golden lift up one floor via a bejeweled elevator shaft, and you’ll find a restaurant skewing more in favor of fine dining. Plush upholstered furnishings, potted tropical plants and a monochromatic floor offer instant appeal to the surprising space, where the walls are clustered with sculptures of honey bees. The reason for the flying insects relates to the name, for Petek translates as honeycomb which is also the inspiration for the original Petek, a family bakery opened in 1916 in Istanbul.
Having been on our radar for the best part of a year we were pleased to finally be dining at Petek and with Turkish food currently riding high as one of 2017’s biggest food trends (thanks in no small part to #SaltBae and his Nusr Et brand) we were intrigued to see how Petek fits into the arguably over-saturated dining scene of kebabs and grills.
We begin with a simple lentil soup, an appetizer we would’ve been unlikely to select for ourselves, but one that arrives with complements from the chef anyway. It’s a thick mixture that feels perhaps a little too heavy as a pre-cursor to the meal. Next we receive warm lavas (traditional Turkish puffed bread) and a selection of 12 cold mezze of which we select two choices. We enjoy the Muhammara (a spicy red pepper paste with pomegranate syrup) and Abugannus (smoky egg plant puree) while leaving the hummus, yogurts and vine leaves for another day. The Roka Salad completely surprises us with an enticing mix of walnuts, apples, oranges and dried grapes.
As with our recent dining experience at Dubai’s Gunaydin we’d strongly suggest for diners to head into Petek hungry, because (like it or not) you’re going to eat a LOT of food – it’s all part of the renowned Turkish hospitality.
Hot mezze soon follow and we enjoy the traditional Turkish pizza known as Lahmacun, a thin dough topped with marinated minced beef and lamb baked in a stone oven. Once baked, the bread is filled with vegetables, rolled into a wrap and consumed. Although next time we would probably order the Pide in preference to this.
Similarly, the pistachio kibbeh looks the part but transpires to be another misfire. Coming across bland an unnecessarily dense.
The discrepancies with the hot appetizers are soon forgotten with the arrival of the signature Hilvan Tava. A dish displaying so much showmanship we’re surprised it hasn’t set Instagram ablaze, for it quite literally arrives on fire! A clay pot of lamb, mushrooms, tomatoes, and pepper is encased in a dough lid to seal in the flavours, before being set alight tableside. Sure, this may be more of a presentation gimmick but it’s one more than likely to get people talking and the end product delivers a remarkably tender and rich concoction. Almost too full to indulge in the Mixed Grill with accompanying rice, we must admit to enjoying the beautifully seasoned chicken and the beef stuffed with cheese.
With Petek’s original Turkish location being predominantly a patisserie and sweet shop the dessert offerings here in Abu Dhabi are decidedly strong. An inspired chocolate covered Kunafa (whoever would’ve thought chocolate and cheese would complement each other so well) is adorned with edible glitter illustrations in a variety of designs. If you’ve ever dreamed of pairing your Kunafa with an image of Wonder Woman or Mini Mouse then this is the place for you!
Yet it’s the Baklava that we would recommend to our readers, as a more than generous portion of sweet layered pastry topped with nuts and a vanilla ice cream is served. Paired with a traditional pistachio Turkish coffee (again served amidst flames) it’s an impressive way of creating a lasting memory of the Petek dining experience.
Petek may not be strictly fine dining but the restaurant really does deserve to be in a luxury hotel. A scaled-back and more casual outlet recently opened in Marina Mall but for the true Petek experience, the Rolex Tower location offers better atmosphere and service.
Under the watchful eye of charismatic restaurant manager Hasan, the service levels are strong but perhaps a little overwhelming at times. Prices are very reasonable and a lack of alcohol license may be a deterrent for some, but it’s perfectly in keeping with the market and the cuisine.
Accompanied by an energetic soundtrack that transports you into the mindset of a Whirling Dervish while you dine, if Petek isn’t yet on your radar, you’re missing out.
We were invited to dine at Petel. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.