Featured Restaurant: Meze Mangal

9th November 2018

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

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

With its low ceilings and beams, its simple wooden tables and its dark red chairs, the dining area at Meze Mangal could be the interior of any traditional restaurant… but the reality is quite different. There is tradition, certainly, but it’s tradition of the Turkish kind…

… an open kitchen, friendly service from welcoming front-of-house staff, and a distinctive vibe, helped in no small part by the theatricality of that open kitchen, where the team chop and mix and sizzle and char fresh ingredients for a menu reminiscent of summer holiday eating.

Within minutes of arriving there’s a little dish of olives, a bowl of Cacik (a Turkish version of tzatskiki: chilled yogurt with cucumber, fresh mint, olive oil and a hint of garlic), a wickedly chilli-ish Salsa and a bowl of Pitta on the table, and we begin the challenging process of working our way through the meze dishes (there are 20+; this is a process that requires time and thought) while simultaneously trying not to sate our appetites too enthusiastically on the tasty morsels in front of us. It’s a hard ask; we have to be very strict about those steaming hot pittas…

There are plenty of tempting cold choices, but it’s a bitter evening, so we stick to hot options: Calamari (Deep fried peppered Squid, served with tartar sauce); Crispy Courgette Fritters, served on a bed of yogurt and tomato sauce and Pan-fried King Prawns cooked in butter, white wine and tomato sauce with a hint of lemon and garlic.
The food arrives promptly, garnished with little more than a slice of cucumber and a quarter of a tomato: it’s all about the flavours here, and with presentation this plain, there’s nowhere to hide. Fortunately, no hiding is required: these are three great dishes. The Calamari flesh is hot and tender; the light coating is full of flavour. It’s a rustic offering, and with a smear of tartar sauce that zings in the mouth – a far cry from the average sad affair – it’s very pleasing indeed. The Courgete Fritters are surprisingly dark in colour, but very light in texture, with a savoury, almost creamy, filling. The King Prawn dish is also darker than expected (I’d imagined a pale sauce) but this tomatoey, herby mixture is so good I can’t resist it… I scrape the plate for the last oozings of that unctuous flavour and then – shhh, don’t tell anyone – I lick the serving spoon.

My main course of Mixed Fish Shish (chosen for its rhythmic word play as much as its content: grilled marinated large cubes of halibut, salmon and tuna) is probably the weakest dish of the evening – the halibut is delicious, but the salmon and tuna are underflavoured and underwhelming. The accompanying salad is lovely, however, with crisp textures that marry well with the fish.

Opposite me, Grilled Adana Köfte, served on a bed of bread with special tomato sauce, yogurt and melted butter, is going down very well indeed. This is one of the house specials: a spicy minced meat kebab that hails from the south of Turkey. It’s very unpretentious…but an involuntary ‘mmm…’ from my guest betrays its hearty beguiling flavour. The cleared plate is more evidence of its quality.

Portions are very generous here. We can’t even begin to look at the dessert menu. Black coffee and fresh mint tea hit the (tiny remaining) spot perfectly.

STARTERS: £4.50-£7 • MAINS: £11-£17
DESSERTS: £3.50-£5.50 • HOUSE WINE: £16

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