Photos by Conal Thomas

Erol Basak greets another new customer who’s stopped by Ayla on Capel Street, his Turkish food emporium and bakery.

He threw open the doors last week and spends much of his time, for now, mingling and offering free samples.

A plate on top of the bakery counter is stacked with dates, pistachios, Turkish delight and baklava, which Basak points out enthusiastically to new arrivals.

Capel Street is good for his new shop, he says. There’s a wealth of nationalities nearby. Originally, he’d planned to open near Dame Street. “We couldn’t find anywhere,” he says.

Basak and his family, originally from Istanbul, moved here more than a decade ago. Now, with two sons in university, and shelves stacked with produce, he’s unlikely to return any time soon.

“We came here for one year for our English education. Then they, my sons, said, ‘Another year! Another year!’ Now it’s the eleventh year. I don’t think I can go back,” he says, laughing.

A Smaller Outfit

There are bunched flowers next to the sample tray. Pastries and sweets are displayed below that.

Basak speaks with well-wishers who have nipped in to take a look. He shakes hands with two men, offers a sample, and waves goodbye.

He says his business is new and a small enterprise. He points outside the shop and around the corner toward Moore Street. “Lidl? We cannot compete with them,” he says.

But you don’t have to shop at the big stores to find good produce, he argues. Most of the shop’s stock comes from Germany and Turkey, he says.

One customer says she’s glad to see some of the products she’d use back home in Turkey. Another peers in at the bakery counter.

Helping Basak out for now is Devi Arslan bedecked in white coat and hat. She points to the various baked goods behind the glass.

There are two trays of baklava, sticky-sweet pastry filled with pistachios and bound with honey. She offers a slice. “It’s good?” she inquires. It’s cheap, sweet and filling at €1 a portion.

There are also boregi pastries stuffed with a variety of ingredients. This is a traditional Turkish-Greek street food also popular in Germany, says Basak. “I was in Germany a couple of weeks ago and everyone was eating it,” he says.

The su boregi comes in large slices at €2.49 each. The kol boregi, which is stuffed with feta and spinach, or cheese and potato, costs €2. There are Turkish rolls and pretzels, as well as  lamachun, essentially a Turkish pizza.

Rich History

“Turkish-Greek” is how owner Basak describes this food.

After all, he says, both countries were so closely linked for so long it makes sense. “The food cultures take from each other,” he says. “If I stay with you I will get from you. If you stay with me you will get from me.”

“If you have a rich history it shows in your food,” he says. Take baklava, for instance. “Greek people say, ‘It belongs to us.’ We say, ‘It belongs to us,’” laughs Basak.

At the back of the store is the halal butchers, which Basak hopes will take off. Fridges filled with Turkish milk, cheeses, and butter hum. Another customer comes in and heads straight for the bakery.

Basak says that he hopes more Irish customers will pop by in the coming weeks and plans to stock more Irish produce to join the Turkish, German, Indian, and Chinese goods.

The customer who just arrived chats for a few moments, and buys a boregi. Before he leaves, Basak jolts into action, insisting he take some samples from the tray of dates, pistachios, and Turkish delight.

The man throws his hands in the air: “How am I ever going to slim down?”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *