I spent Christmas in Istanbul, a restorative break of sunny blue skies, ancient culture and endlessly interesting food.
For Christmas and New Year refuseniks who can't get into the jingle-bells-and-sales-shopping thing, I heartily recommend a getaway to a Muslim country where life goes on as normal without seasonal closures and people throwing up in the street.
Back home, in the short, grey days of early January, withdrawal symptoms set in. I missed my daily fresh pressed pomegranate juice, the whiff of char-grilled kebabs, the cream-encrusted yogurt, the come-in-and-choose kitchens, with ev yemekleri (line-ups of warm home cooking), and the buzzy meyhanes (pubs) with hot and cold mezze going round on trays.
So what a pleasant surprise it was when the dishes started lining up on our table at Enjoy, in Glasgow. Chickpea, onion and green chilli fritters with cucumber yogurt, chunks of roasted beetroot on rocket capped with yogurt and pomegranate seeds, grilled Halloumi cheese, with crunchy heart of baby gem, slightly pickled carrot, and a long, curling char-grilled green pepper. It was beginning to look and taste not a little bit Turkish.
As more small plates stacked up, this time with sticky, fondant aubergine napped with patiently softened onions, garlic and tomato, and tiny meatballs, it took me back to Istanbul. There is a connection. Enjoy is run by a thoroughly charming, extremely hospitable Kosovar family, and for centuries, Kosova was part of the Ottoman empire (now Turkey), so the cooking shares roots.
What I noticed at Enjoy, was the conscientiousness of the cooking. If you travel at all, even just to London, you will realise that many Middle Eastern-branded restaurants in Scotland are half-hearted, lazy outfits. Rarely very bad, but rarely very good either, they all too easily accept the limitations of the fresh produce available, relax in the absence of peers setting high standards, and snuggle up in a low-achieving comfort blanket.
But here the food shows care and effort, and even though it is not especially traditional, it is true to the spirit of this type of cooking. No dish has not had some thought and attention lavished on it. This is a kitchen that makes abundant use of fresh herbs - dill, fennel, mint, parsley, rosemary - and is the opposite of mean with expensive ingredients, such as nuts, jewel-like dried fruits, and pomegranate seeds strewn abundantly.
The dishes are simple in one sense, even rustic, and yet you can tell that someone has looked at each one and thought "How could I make that better?', someone who takes pride in what they do. For instance, a paper-thin shard of cinnamon bark added sweet, spicy complexity to the melting aubergine, while the potato gratin that accompanied a special of char-grilled lamb chops was bedecked with crisp-fried onions. These are precisely the time-consuming little touches that go out the window when chefs get complacent and stop trying.
Talking of the chops, the portion - four small cutlets - was extremely generous, given the ruinous price of lamb, and the gratin was a belter. The cream had been infused with saffron and fennel seeds had been thrown in. It showed Enjoy does not lose the plot when it strays off the classic path.
It serves a mild-mannered aioli with its Provençal daube of beef shin, not an authentic pairing, but the combination works. Elizabeth David would surely approve of the curls of orange zest that flavour the winey meat.
Breakfast/brunch options at Enjoy are hugely tempting. Why bother with eggs Benedict, Florentine et al when you can eat a proper shakshuka, the venerable Levantine dish of eggs in reduced tomato and vegetables?
Or there is the Mediterranean breakfast of grilled Halloumi, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, tzatziki,and butter bean hummus, served with home baked cornbread. Mind you, I also fancy the home-made cannellini beans, served on decent toast with chorizo. Although the charcoal grill is a recurring theme, Enjoy is a brilliant place to be a vegetarian, when there are options like Puy lentil and quinoa pilaf with roast vegetable sauce and pine nuts. Whatever your taste, you will be spoilt for choice here.