maître d’ - Secret Garden, Bodrum
Written by Karen Martin photography by Benjamin Eagle
Secret Garden is a fine-dining restaurant with an enviable location on the coast of the Aegean, with a menu specialising in French cuisine.
Chef Nicolas Le Toumelin heads up the open-air restaurant in Bodrum, Turkey. He has created a menu that combines his French roots with the abundant fresh seafood from the region.
At the age of 18, Nicolas was working with world-renowned chef Pascal Proyart at London’s One-O-One, heralded as one of the best seafood restaurants in the city. He honed his skills in Dubai and France before heading to Bodrum to create the menu for Secret Garden.
“I have worked all over the world and I have created a menu that reflects my love of seafood, and my specialities – truffles, foie gras, lobsters – all play a part!” he says. “I took my inspiration from the sea, from the incredible fresh seafood in the Bodrum area, and twinned this with traditional French influences.”
Starters include a terrine of foie gras, and roasted prawns, with a hazelnut and balsamico dressing, or salmon tartare with soft-poached quail egg and truffle hair potato. Main courses tempt with roasted sea scallops with pan-fried duck liver, aubergine caviar, and coriander emulsion, and tender duck breast with morel mushroom, forestière salad, and light mousseline; and desserts include mango and strawberry carpaccio gratinated with champagne sabayon, and chocolate moelleux.
With a stylish interior designed by Jade Jagger, including a gold VVIP booth with a striking crystal chandelier, the fine-dining restaurant combines a sophisticated design with the laid-back atmosphere of outdoor dining.
“Diners sit under the stars, with the Aegean Sea just a few metres away,” says Nicolas. “They can see the moon rise over Bodrum castle and then step straight through into the club next door to catch one of the most amazing shows, or to dance. It is the most intimate and romantic setting for a restaurant in the whole region – and the best location for partying the night away afterwards.”
Secret Garden is part of Halikarnas, the huge open-air club in Bodrum that underwent a multi-million dollar renovation last year. Originally opened in 1979, the club has hosted everyone from Princess Margaret to Sir Michael Caine, Yves Saint Laurent, and the Rothschilds. The 5,000-capacity nightclub offers a nightly dance show and world-class DJs, which last season included Paul Oakenfold and David Morales. With its deep-water harbour attracting superyacht owners like Bill Gates and Roman Abramovich, Bodrum is a favourite haunt of the jet set, and Halikarnas is planning a superyacht jetty and beach club aimed at the super-rich, who are now flocking to Bodrum from Russia, Europe, and the Middle East.