When the Malika Bakehouse team signed a lease on Bayswater Road, Potts Point was lively, with plenty of foot traffic and venues full of diners.

“We were so excited to open a Turkish restaurant in the eastern suburbs,” Izgara co-owner and chef Efe Topuzlu tells Broadsheet. “But then lockdown happened. We signed the lease and then for 10 months we couldn’t open. Potts Point used to be buzzing, but when we opened, Bayswater Road was depressingly quiet. The weekends were busy, but you can’t afford to run a business on two nights a week.”

Izgara traded for a while, but the owners soon realised closing was the only option. That decision proved to be bittersweet; it showed Topuzlu and business partner Ozgur Sefkatli how much customers loved Izgara. “We got so many messages; we thought we should give Izgara a life again.”

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In its renaissance, Izgara occupies the team’s old Above Par space – with 35 seats inside and 15 outside – on Clarence Street in the CBD. And the menu has been refocused. The kitchen pumps out share plates: chargrilled Turkish chilli peppers with smoked labneh; haloumi with honey, walnuts and currants; beef rump-cap saslik kebab with eggplant puree. For dessert there’s baklava cheesecake, which has quickly become a social-media darling.

One Potts Point favourite remains: kokorec, a classic sandwich. “It’s a famous dish in Turkey, typically eaten after a big night out. Normally it’s made with intestines, but we wanted to make it more appealing to an Australian audience, so we did lamb sweetbreads crushed on the charcoal grill with Aleppo pepper, paprika and fresh thyme. It’s hearty and perfect.”

The fit-out is top notch too, with stormy grey marble tabletops and banquet seating. A massive collection of mostly Turkish wines frame large front corner windows, and red block lettering announces the venue.

The team recognises that these days diners are more budget conscious, so it has adjusted the offering accordingly.

“For venues, the prices of everything have gone up – the staff, products, utilities, everything. You can only charge so much before you become an ‘expensive restaurant’. We don’t want to compromise on quality, and we’re certainly not a ‘cheap eat’, but we’ve refocused, offering more share plates, more vegetable dishes that won’t hurt the budget.”

Big name hospitality groups like Love, Tilly (Palazzo Salato) and Bentley (King Clarence) have opened venues in the same pocket of the city, so Topuzlu’s confident they’re onto something with the new location.

“I think it’s a good sign that better days are ahead.”

Izgara
215 Clarence Street, Sydney
(02) 8033 7585

Hours:
Mon to Fri midday–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Sat 5.30pm–10pm

izgarasydney.com.au
@izgara