Featured Restaurant: Meze Mangal

8th September 2017

81 High Road • Bushey • WD23 1EL • 020 8950 8231

By Lisa Botwright

The humble kebab may get a bad rap for being the go-to source of post-pub consumption, but this a grievous disservice to such a tasty dish. French food? Too many rich cream sauces… Italian? A little too carb-heavy at times… Of all the delicious Continental cuisines, Turkish speaks to both my heart and my head…

My head, because a dish of grilled meat or fish with salad is pretty healthy, as indulgent restaurant food goes; and my heart, because I have very happy memories of eating this kind of food under the warm, starlit skies of its beautiful homeland.

There’s a nod to the Turkish alfresco culture, with an attractive seating area outside the restaurant’s entrance, but sadly I’m not on holiday now and I’m keen to get inside. It’s a grey, English, midweek evening, and it looks as if the heavens are about to open.

Inside, I’m delighted to find a surprising energy to the place; with all the buzz and chatter of a genuinely popular, local restaurant. This isn’t fine dining, and doesn’t aim to be, but the interior is elegant and inviting, and I watch as the staff hop from table to table, keen to keep everyone happy.

Our waiter is friendly, knowledgeable and attentive, without being overly so, and we receive our drinks promptly, as well as an unasked for, but very welcome, basket of flatbread with olives and dips.

We’ve chosen a bottle of Turkish wine, Çankaya, and relish its dry and well-bodied flavour. Maybe I can get into the holiday-mood after all?

My famously indecisive husband adores the fact that the meze option means he can have a little of everything, without having to make a choice, and so we share some hot and cold mixed small plates. Highlights of the Hot Meze include Cheese Borek – steaming, crispy filo pastry stuffed with Turkish cheese – and salty grilled Halloumi, which pairs well with some sweet Calamari, and Spicy Sausage.

We use salad, pickles and flatbread to make inroads into the Cold Meze – a gorgeous array of traditional dips, including bulgur wheat and tomato-based Kisir, refreshing Tzatziki and creamy Humus.

Clearly still unable to make a decision, my husband orders Mixed Kebab from the menu for a main course and enthusiastically tackles Lamb Shish, Chicken Shish and Adana Kofte. I’m just as bad on the decision-front and plump for Mixed Fish Shish. It’s difficult to cook fish just-so, but the large, tasty cubes of Halibut, Salmon and Tuna are hot and slightly crispy on the outside, soft and flaky on the inside – exactly as they should be. They’re served with a simple dressed-salad.

Reaching over to steal my husband’s food, I observe that a well-cooked shish (cubed, grilled meat) is the benchmark of good Turkish food, and am happy to find this is an excellent example. The marinated lamb and chicken cubes are plump, succulent and moreish, with the spiciness of the Kofte (minced meat kebab) adding an agreeable piquancy.

My husband and I groan mildly at the sight of the dessert menu, but force ourselves to choose Nocciola, ice cream with chocolate and hazelnuts (him) and homemade Sütlaç, a kind of Turkish rice pudding with cinnamon (me). We’re quite bewildered when both bowls are empty minutes later.

I understand that Meze Mangal has won Best Regional Kebab House two years in a row at the British Kebab Awards. Not bad for a restaurant that feels long established, but is only two years old. Very well-deserved, I say.

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