The Oddfellows Hall was built in 1870 to house the local branch of this Victorian-era philanthropic group. In 1891, the façade was amended to give it temple-like proportions.
When Turkish retailer and restaurateur Serdar Basoglu saw it, he fell in love with it. “What a beautiful building,” says Serdar, who was born in the town of Buharkent in the Aegean region of Western Turkey.
Colac reminded me of my small town, the community, the people.
Serdar previously had a Turkish restaurant near Baker Street in London’s Marylebone district. After a career in supermarket retail, he wanted to return to looking after people again.
Babil at Oddfellows fills the old hall with its towering wooden ceiling. Bentwood chairs sit at bare wooden tables set with fine glassware.
The menu is an eclectic mix of dishes from across Turkey. Expect to start with saganaki – a dish Turkish in origin. A hot slice of sheep and cows milk cheese shallow fried and crisped on the outside and soft inside.
Move on to a dolma biber – capsicum stuffed with rice cooked with onion, garlic and tomato, redolent with cinnamon.
Always consider the mantil – Turkey’s answer to ravioli. Little flat dumplings of pasta filled with minced lamb flavoured with cumin amongst other spices. It is slathered in a reduced tomato sauce seasoned with dried mint and a little whack of paprika. With walnuts for crunch and garlic yoghurt for a cooling touch, this is the go-to dish.
Look out for the small selection of Turkish wines and ask what seafood is on the menu. Come for lunch and enjoy the Turkish pop, or at dinner, the room switches to slightly more traditional Meyhane songs – folk songs performed in bars by men with smoke-cured vocal cords, lubricated by too much raki. Finish with a thick and fragrant Turkish coffee and a sugar-dusted cube of Turkish delight.
WHAT: Babil at Oddfellows
WHERE: 43 Gellibrand Street, Colac
WHEN: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-9pm
BOOKINGS: (03) 5231 4414