The authentic Turkish experience that Le Méridien has on offer isn't just relegated to the cuisine. Music and performance arts are an integral part of the dining experience here, which fulfils the restaurant's goal of transporting its patrons through Turkey's traditions and culture. Two dervishes appeared wearing Sufi garb and walked around the perimeter of the stage. Their every movement–crossing their arms, laying a sheepskin on the floor, bowing, saluting one another–followed established traditions, lost on most of us in the audience, though we sensed there was meaning to it all.
The tilting of the head, the opening of the arms, the palm of the right hand facing up, the left palm facing down, to transmit the positive energy of heaven earthward, spreading peace and wisdom - everything about the performance somehow felt extremely solemn and poignant.
With glossy marble walls, overhanging mosaic chandeliers and a traditional wood-fire oven (originally called Firin) from Türkiye, Le Méridien Dhaka's new themed restaurant Olea, has been designed meticulously with intricate details. Walking into Olea, you will be greeted with tables adorned with crockery imported from world-famous glassware brand Paşabahçe, delivering a top-notch fine dining aesthetic.
After existing only in blueprints for many months, on 30 June, Olea finally started food service, thanks to the joint effort of the Executive Chef, Levent Karahan; the Director of Food and Beverage, Fatih Yetgin; and the General Manager, Constantinos S Gavriel.
The Istanbul ambience
When we stepped into the restaurant we were greeted with the rhythmic tunes of classic Turkish music. Also known as Maqam, the music was played by Luthier Mustafa, a young musician from Istanbul, who was playing a harp-like instrument named Qanun.
Fatih welcomed us in and he explained that this restaurant was the brainchild of Le Méridien Dhaka's General Manager, Constantinos S Gavriel.
"Direct flights have been operating via Turkish Airlines connecting Dhaka to Istanbul since 2010, increasing the connectivity between the two countries. We wanted to take this opportunity to create a chance for Bangladeshis to explore more food and culture of one of the top tourist destinations in the world," he said.
As the time for dinner neared, the executive chef presented us with the menus and dishes.
Authentic Turkish delights
The feast started with assorted mezzes, which is a platter of region-based items from all over Türkiye. We were familiar with some of the items like Hummus and Baba ganoush.
Thankfully, the executive chef introduced us to some of the original items like Arnavut ciğeri, made of oil-fried lamb or beef liver cubes, seasoned with hot pepper and served in the traditional style with onion and parsley.
Another eye-catching item from the menu was the bubble-gum pink coloured-Pembe Sultan, made of beetroot and yoghurt. In a similar vein, the appetiser spread of dips and finger foods was entirely vegan, a treat for any vegetarian or health conscious person.
While we were perplexed by the myriad options of dips, the General Manager of the hotel, Gavriel, grabbed a seat at our comparatively small table of six.
On top of the amazing hospitality, he talked us through the courses of food, his life in Dhaka and how he gained a lot of weight after his first three months of consuming too much rice. He playfully reminded us to save some space for the main course, acknowledging how easy it is to get puzzled with so many options.
We noticed how he politely denied the pita bread and instead chose more protein options like lamb and chicken kebabs that came next to the course. Void of too many sugary items, the dinner spread felt exceptionally healthy and easily digestible. So you can choose from these items if you're planning to keep yourself fit like Le Meridien's GM.
More items from the southern parts of Türkiye like Urfa kebab, Adana kebab, Keyti Kebab and lamb chop are available on the menu as well from their charcoal grill options.
Their menu has been enriched with items like Hunkar Begendi, also known as Sultan's Delight, which is an old Turkish recipe dating back a few hundred years to the Ottoman Empire. It's basically meat stew on eggplant mash, usually topped with bite-sized pieces of lamb meat.
Another popular kebab from Anatolia, Çökertme kebab, which is originally from South West Türkiye, is made using marinated strips of veal, fried potatoes, garlic yoghurt, tomato sauce and served with fried tomatoes and green peppers.
For Desserts, along with Baklava with semolina, there were items such as Fırın sütlaç, a simple oven-baked rice pudding, made with water, milk, sugar, rice, and rice flour. This light dessert is also said to have origins in Ottoman cuisine.
A feast like this cannot be completed without the famous Turkish ice cream pranks. With our hearts filled with the true essence of Türkiye, we did not mind being toyed with by the ice cream man after such a satiating feast.