Colin Clague has brought Rüya to London at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott hotel, having established the Anatolian restaurant in Dubai. The chef-patron tells James Stagg how Turkish cuisine provides a huge canvas for creativity
How long have you been with Rüya?
We opened the first Rüya in the marina in Dubai two years ago. It went fantastically and after seven months the boss said he'd found a place in London, which was a bit sooner than we'd expected. We're now looking at Paris and Los Angeles, so it's something that we're looking to roll out.
Turkish food is not too well known in the UK, is it?
This is one of the driving forces behind it. Umut Özkanca and his father, as well as their fellow investors, are extremely proud of their history, cuisine and tradition. Everyone thinks Turkish food is doner kebab with garlic mayonnaise, but nothing could be further from the truth. The investors want to put Turkish food up there with the best cuisines.
You've worked at Zuma in London and Dubai and Caprice Holdings in the United Arab Emirates. What has it been like changing your focus to Anatolian dishes?
That said, I have lots of Turkish chefs with me. Some dishes require a master - like the - people who make the kebabs and the bread. Our kebab specialist has been making them since he was 10. He's an artist.
Where have you found - inspiration for the dishes?
I've travelled through the whole country and I can find inspiration just walking the streets. Some of these dishes are 2,000 years old. For instance, we have a chicken dessert that is a Roman dish. - The little ravioli - the manti - are the first thing everyone makes for an hour each morning, to keep up with demand.
Turkey is a melting pot and the food is vastly different from region to region. That's the main reason I left Zuma. It was the best place I ever worked, but it was difficult coming up with new dishes that involved soy, saké or mirin. Here the cuisine is so broad that I could do this for the rest of my life.
It's described as Anatolian - is that to avoid any preconceptions about Turkish cuisine?
Well, Anatolia is the area, so it's geographically accurate, but it's also about preconceptions about Turkish kebabs and even, to be truthful, because the country isn't being viewed too well currently.
You've thought carefully - about the crockery, too?
There are some wonderful dishes in Turkey where they make a stew in a clay pot, it's brought to the table, the top is smashed off and the contents are poured into a dish. A little bit of clay in the dish doesn't upset the Turks, but I'm not sure about Mayfair.
What have you learned - since opening?
The main difficulty is the staffing. You can ask any chef - we're all in the same boat. Everyone told me it'd be difficult, but I didn't think it would be as difficult as it is.
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