ONE of the challenges of writing this particular column in this particular newspaper is that a majority of the places one might reasonably eat out are pubs. It’s just the nature of the D&S patch.

There will not be many pubs in the 2,000 square miles of its circulation that will not have had a visit from me and the missus. It’s a good job we like ‘em.

But pubs serve pub food and while that can cover a big range of cuisines these days there are certain dishes that are ubiquitous.

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Dessert menus are now extraordinarily depressing for someone who eats out on almost weekly basis.

I used to love crème brulee but not anymore. The same goes for chocolate brownies. And as for sticky toffee b……. pudding!

Sympathy will be in short supply, I know. You all love these dessert standards and, quite rightly, you want to know how hard the caramelised brulee topping is, how meltingly gooey the inner brownie is and how fluffily light the STP is.

Well, you will not find out from me. You’ll just have to go on Ill Advisor and find out there. There’s bound to be someone who will tell you that the STP/brulee/brownie at the Dog and Ferret in Little Deeping is “absolutely to die for”. I know the feeling.

So what’s all this flannel leading to, you ask? Probably the best meal we’ve had so far this year, that’s what. And it isn’t a pub.

The Eighteen81 restaurant opened in Ripon last year. It’s Turkish and however far you live from Ripon I’d suggest it’s worth the trip for the baklava alone.

Yes, yes I know what you Clever Dicks are saying. Baklava is Turkish equivalent of sticky toffee pudding and the restaurant critic of the Bodrum Weekly Bulletin is at this very moment bewailing his or her fate at having to endlessly pass judgment on the quality of the layers of honeyed nut-filled filo pastry served in the café and restaurants of the area.

So, making allowances for your reviewer’s simple enthusiasm for eating something that isn’t pub grub, this is right up there.

It lost a little ground with the slightly strange almost subterranean feel of the place and the fact despite having booked we were initially given a table with a birds-eye view of what appeared to be a bit of a dumping ground and the fire escape.

But our waitress (and we think overall boss on the night) made up for it by finding us another more congenial table. Phillipa made light of the fact that the kitchen was a chef down, it was a busy Saturday night and the takeaway queue was out of the door.

In fact, despite of the sense of imminent chaos everything flowed remarkably smoothly, Phillipa and her team were charming and the food was excellent.

The meze (£7.49) starter got things rolling nicely with a multi-layer flavour feast, the hot and cold mixed plate of stuffed vine leaves, grilled halloumi, hummus, pacanga boregi (a sort of crispy spring roll filled with a halloumi-type cheese and pepperoni), vegetable tarator (chopped carrot, aubergine, courgette with Turkish yoghurt, garlic and olive oil) and, the stand-out one for me, antep ezme, a refreshingly cold and fine mixture of peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, garlic and fresh parsley.

Although we ordered the meze for one, it was probably adequate for two provided you could agree on how to split the halloumi (squeakily but fairly). But we had also ordered osmanli koftesi (£5.95) - lamb meatballs heavily infused with cumin and cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and onions. It was supremely aromatic.

We were offered, and seized, a ten-minute break before the arrival of our mains – karni yarik for me (roasted aubergine stuffed with minced lamb, garlic and tomato and served with rice and salad - £12.95).

Now aubergine is one of those Marmite things. It certainly is in our household where Sylvia cannot stomach it on account of an allegedly dodgy moussaka eaten in a Greek island taverna on a very hot evening - when a lot of lager was consumed as well it should be said.

Me I just love it on account of learning to cook ratatouille the classical French way, taking four hours to do it and thinking it was the most sublime thing I had ever tasted in my 20 years on this earth.

And this was almost as good, served with fluffy rice, salad and more of the estimable antep ezme.

Sylvia’s kuzu incik (lamb shank - £14.95) was marinated and falling off the bone as she looked at it, knife and fork poised. Lamb doesn’t get much tender than that. She had similar accompaniments of equal standard.

Which just left the baklava (£4.95) which was as stickly sweet and soft and crispy as anyone in Bodrum could possibly wish. It was, in fact, to die for.

Total bill with a bottle of good, extra dry Italian fizz was £66.24.

Eighteen81

5 North Street, Ripon HG4 1JY

Tel: 01765 608709 Web: eighteen81.co.uk

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 4-10.30pm

Most allergies catered for

Disabled access

Ratings:

Food quality: 5/5

Service: 4/5

Surroundings: 4/5

Value: 4/5