The suburbs of Leeds appear to be fertile ground for growing restaurant brands. I’m thinking Gusto and East, to name but two.
Well, now you can add Ephesus to that list. It may not yet have spread its roots as deep as others but it’s certainly on the way to doing so. It opened in Rodley in 2012 in the charming little backwater that is Rodley Bottoms, a stone’s throw from the Leeds Liverpool Canal, with two pubs - The Owl and Rodley Barge - just over the road. It thrived, mainly because it offered authentic food, cooked with passion and flair and all at a decent price. No surprise then that it was patronised by the local populace - it’s location just down from Rodley roundabout also no doubt helps in terms of drawing clientèle from further afield. After several years of quietly cementing its reputation, it expanded, taking over an adjacent building and adding an outside decking area. And two years ago, it branched out to Huddersfield, offering the same menu available at Rodley. It’s the latter (original) restaurant to which we return, having last sampled its wares in 2015. We turn up unannounced shortly after opening time on a balmy Sunday evening in early July to find an equally warm welcome.
The expanded restaurant has done wonders for the atmosphere, which has an airy, laid-back feel, with pictures of the Med on the walls, interspersed with rustic-style paintings and other object d’art. Rows of bright ocean-blue wall seats run around the edge of the dining area, while on the opposite side of the tables are some of the comfiest chairs you are likely to find in any restaurant - high-backed brown faux leather numbers, which I think should be mandatory for all restaurants.
The terracotta and amber decor is broken up by earthy tones of stone wall reliefs and all drawn together by the soft, rich meander of polished wood. There’s a significant play on the Turkish heritage, too. Ephesus the city dates back to the 10th Century BC and boasted one of the seven wonders of the world, namely the Temple of Artemis. In terms of atmosphere, then, full marks all round, but what about the food?
Well, we ordered calamari, meatballs, sucuk and hummus, together with a plate of feta cheese and olives, the cheese salty, sour and tangy. The hummus is freshly made, offering up rich, earthy aromas and both dishes go very well with a nice crisp lager, which in this case happens to be Efes Draft at £4.95 for 5ooml. A note too on the calamari, which again did not disappoint, the batter perfectly judged, crisp outside but soft in, the meat yielding its delicate seaside flavours, with just a hint of seasoning.
Mains were Adana skewers (very good) and lamb mousaka, a dish I wish I could cook myself to the same standard, the meat just peeling apart, swimming in flavour with the lightest touches of fragrant herbs and spices. The children enjoyed margarita and pepperoni pizzas, while I ordered a T-bone done medium-well. It came with salad, some of the best chips I’ve had in ages and salsa and sour cream dips. It’s a big old chunk of meat too for the money and I am ashamed to admit I couldn’t manage it all.
One tiny gripe was the service, which could be a little bit more attentive. We sat there for a good ten minutes after entering with no-one coming to take our order, even though staff were circling, looking for things to do, so in the end I called one of them over. It was the same thing later on too, when we wanted to pay the bill. That said, staff are well turned out, polite and efficient.
Sadly, we were all far too full to sample desserts, which include things like Turkish delight (£4), lemon cheesecake (£4.50) and home made baklava (£4.50). The final bill came to £124 but that was a meal for four adults and two children, including drinks, so in terms of value, it’s faultless.
If you’re planning a visit, they offer an all day menu, which includes two courses for £17.50, all day Sunday to Thursday and on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5pm.
In short, Ephesus has made a name for itself and rightly so. I am also aware, thanks to my children, who attend a nearby school, that it actively engages with the local community, allowing school visits, where pupils can learn some of the cooking techniques.
For a place which started out with such humble beginnings to have grown into what it is today seems well earned. We hear the Huddersfield outfit offers the exact same menu and level of service.
In summary, you couldn’t want for a more welcoming, relaxed experience, delivering great food at value for money. Surely, it’s only a matter of time before the Ephesus brand spreads its canopy even further. Just remember, it started right here in suburban Leeds.
Address: 4 Rodley Lane, Rodley, Ls13 1HU
Telephone: 0113 256 1668
Opening hours: 11am-11pm seven days, lunch menu available Monday-Saturday noon-5pm (excludes bank holidays)