Alex Buharali and Sam Pazar wanted to open a fine-dining restaurant. Their dream was to serve Turkish food as you'd find it in Istanbul. Then a space popped up right around the corner from Buharali’s house.
“Sam came to visit me one day. He'd seen the shop and he said, ‘Let's do something’,” Buharali says. Being so close made it incredibly convenient and it’s well positioned on the Hunter’s Hill main strip. Perfect – but too small for the original plan. “So we decided to mix up fine-dining with takeaway. We call it a luxury kebab shop, in our minds,” says Buharali.
He’ll never call it that out loud, though, because it isn’t a kebab shop. “Kebab is not a dish, it's a cooking style. But according to Australian culture, kebab is doner or gyros. So we don't want to use the word kebab anywhere because we don't do doner.” Instead of lamb, chicken and beef wraps, Grill Republic specialises in skewers. Its modus operandi is sourcing high-quality local meat, roasting it over charcoals and serving it as they do in Turkey.
That’s represented on the menu in two ways. First, a sharing platter with chef Pazar’s charcoal skewers; mezze (all the classics plus a roast-capsicum paste); Turkish pickles; a salad (try the Ordu with spinach, beetroot, hazelnuts, chickpeas, feta, sultanas and pomegranate); and a bulgur pilaf (cracked-wheat rice cooked in broth).
The second is the Turkish street option, the roll. “In Turkey it's very common to get most of your sandwiches in bread rolls,” says Buharali. There’s one from each region or city, such as the Istanbul with fish, sumac onions, parsley and lemon. And the Kayseri, with sucuk (Turkish chorizo), haloumi, tomatoes and pickles.
With fish-and-chip-shop tiling, simple furniture and orders at the counter, it certainly looks and feels like a takeaway shop, but it’s markedly different in philosophy. “Our focus is simple, fast and fresh,” says Buharali. Unlike many of Grill Republic’s competitors in the doner and gyros world, no meat is precooked here. “We do everything to order.”