How Hulya and Mark Pearse Changed the way we look at mediterranean cuisine

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Hulya and Mark Pearse are behind a trio of Hertfordshire restaurants that have changed the way we look at Mediterranean cuisine. The former tells us how they did it

Love at first sight? Absolutely certainly felt that way the first time we ventured to Tabure in St Albans, and it seems there was a mutual appreciation of food when Hulya and Mark Pearse – the brains behind the restaurant – first met, nearly 20 years ago. “I met Mark in 2004 when I was out with friends in London,” Hulya tells us. “I had moved to the UK with a work placement and was surprised by the ‘Turkish’ cuisine in offer. It’s safe to say that the early years together, as I cooked many of my home inspired dishes for Mark, were an education for him.”

It’s little surprise that Hulya was determined to integrate a taste of home into their relationship. You can almost taste the joy Hulya felt growing up in Turkey. “Day to day life was totally dominated by shopping in the markets with my mum buying fresh produce, checking all the stalls to find the best fruits and vegetables on offer,” she recounts. “Seasonality in Turkey today is still the focus, with the smells of ripeness, and the feel of the produce and of course the price, haggling with the sellers. At home we would all help my mum to prepare breakfast, whilst we would start to prepare for lunch and beyond. With pots slowly simmering through the day, we would sit at each meal talking about the dishes to follow spurred on by the smells emanating through the home.”          

bbc good food turkish stool aka tabure
Inside Tabure

With these memories bubbling away, as Hulya and Mark’s relationship blossomed, so too did the idea of doing their own thing. “The more we dined out, travelling abroad and experiencing different Mediterranean cuisines, we grew more confident that our ideas for the kind of restaurant we wanted to dine in was hard to find in the UK,” Hulya says. “High quality has largely been perceived as being expensive and perhaps less accessible to many. The inspiration behind Tabure was to break these perceptions, and excite people with a lovely atmosphere, great food and drink, whilst still being a neighbourhood restaurant at our core.”

And so they took the plunge, with Tabure opening in St Albans in April 2015 – and it was an instant hit. “We have been obsessed with preparing all our food fresh to this day, and this sits at the heart of the Tabure concept,” Hulya considers what made Tabure stand out from the crows. “We are obsessed too with creating great flavours, with fresh herbs and spices, seasoning, and marinades. We love the joy of sharing the food at the table and our concept has always been built around this. To bring a real joy to the experience, and yet to still be as healthy an option as anywhere at the same time. We are passionate about using only organic meat from Rhug farm in Wales, who supply mainly to Michelin starred restaurants, but yet to stay affordable in comparison. 

tabure hulya mark
Hulya and Mark Pearse

“We have obsessed too in ensuring that the standard of our service is as equal in quality to our food,” Hulya adds. “We spend a lot of time with our staff, both in service, in training, and socially for them to understand the ethos of Tabure as best as possible and this comes through in the restaurant service. In all honesty it’s so tough to deliver on all these aspects, of course we cannot get it right all the time, but we remain as obsessed, and as passionate in aiming to deliver all this as ever.”

It feels like they have certainly got more right than wrong, highlighted by the fact they have three successful sites in the county now. “We are a neighbourhood restaurant and wanted to maintain that local feel. Opening in Berkhamsted and Harpenden means we are more local to many of our regulars who would have travelled further to reach our first St Albans restaurant,” Hulya says on their trio of restaurants. “We aim to offer the same experience in all our restaurants. This is very important for us. Many of our teams work across all our restaurants, which really helps to achieve this.”

bbc good food stuffed courgette flowers
Stuffed Courgette Flowers

The menu, Hulya says, has always been inspired in the most part by her upbringing, but constantly evolves. “We launched our latest menu around six weeks ago,” she says, “with one of the new dishes to feature, which has proved very popular, being the organic chicken adana kofte, served as a ballotine, stuffed with apricots, green olives, zereshk berries and fresh herbs, with a creamy tarragon veloute and crispy potatoes.”

Does Hulya have a personal favourite right now? “We eat at Tabure a lot in the name of quality control, of course,” she smiles. “I enjoy our new pickled torshi cabbage, as I’m fascinated with pickling right now and all its health benefits, and the labne yoghurt dip – a strained yoghurt with confit garlic is fresh and so tasty.”

bbc good food magazine interior lights
Expect and evocative ambience

Hulya and Mark have come since that first meeting 19 years ago. We don’t know if it was love at first sight for the two of them, but Hertfordshire diners were left infatuated with Tabure from the off. But what does the future hold in store? “We will continue to focus on the small details, explore new ideas and moving trends to keep everything at Tabure fresh with a neighbourhood feel,” Hulya says. “Next month we will be closing our Berkhamsted restaurant for an exciting refurbishment, reopening in October, so we never sit still.” It’s pretty much a given that we will love it.


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