I have reviewed a number of Turkish places in the past on the blog and with the closing of one (Efes BBQ) it seemed an opportune moment to take a look at a new one in Cardiff City centre.
I am a big fan of Turkish food, which is far more sophisticated than the doner (only bad when poorly executed, with cheap ingredients) and is one of those cuisines that seemingly drops under the radar.
With the size of the old Ottoman Empire, there is unsurprisingly a significant element of fusion in Turkish food. Influences include the Levant, Central Asian, North African and the Balkans – all of which fell within (at some point or other) the Ottoman sphere of influence.
In my neck of the woods (to the West of Cardiff) we have the rather fine Sen BBQ, as well as Fafafel Wales (quite liked it based on my limited experience of the place, but prone to inconsistency if the experiences of others are anything to go by) and Mira (not tried the latter, but Gourmet Gorro rated it which means it must be pretty good in my book) and you have the panoply of places in the Roath area (really need to get my arse over there more often).
The city centre is less well served (if you discount the kebab shops of Caroline Street). With Efes BBQ now gone, there is only Royal Coast Cafe on Charles Street and this new place on St. Mary Street.
With this much more prominent spot, is Turkish cuisine going mainstream in the city centre and will this place live up to its name (Lezzet means “flavour” in Turkish)?
The place is located in the old Prezzo unit on St. Mary Street. It is a pretty big site, which makes it quite a brave move and certainly sets it apart from most Turkish places.
Bar from a few Middle Eastern baubles it looks very much like the old Prezzo. A friend on walking past commented that they seem to have bought the site lock, stock and barrel, as the chairs and tables are the same as when it was Prezzo.
Nice enough, if looking a tiny bit rough around the edges already (not surprising if it is mainly all the old furniture from Prezzo).
As ever I was there for lunch and they have a seemingly rather good “Lunch Special” offer of 1 course for £6.95 and 2 courses for £10.45
as well as an Express Wrap menu for a rather pleasing £5.95 (with chips and salad included).
The main (non offer menu) is a fair bit more expensive, with meat, pides, fish and veggie options.
I rarely find such a large menu to be a good thing. Alway a suspicion in my mind, with such a large menu, of a place being a “Jack of all trades, master of none” operation, but large menus seem to be pretty standard in Turkish restaurants.
I ordered (or at least thought I did – more on that later) the lamb kofte off the “mains” section of the “Lunch Specials” menu (going for only a main – rather than the two course option – in theory, a mere £6.95), whereas my mate from work ordered the chicken kofte wrap (£5.95).
Taking the £5.95 wrap first,
this was a decent sized dish with a well filled flat bread packed with decently spiced chicken. It came with a large portion of piping hot, crisp, fries and a reasonable (if a touch unexciting) dressed side salad. I was told it was pretty good on the taste front and very good value on the bucks front.
When my lamb kofte arrived it was a bit bigger than I was expecting and at first sight looked very good value for the purported £6.95 price tag. I felt rather smug if I am honest (it didn’t last).
The lamb was nicely tender and juicy
with some nice spicing and a reasonable char on the exterior.
The side salad was properly dressed, with the only downside being the rice was seriously lacking in seasoning making it a touch bland. The application of a few (quite a few) grinds from the on table salt cellar was required to sort this.
Bread was provided which, whilst good for mopping up the kofte juice, was just a tad dense for my liking.
In terms of the food there were a couple of issues with the chronically underseasoned rice and the somewhat dense bread, but overall it was pretty good.
This brings me to value. I thought I had ordered off the lunch menu and on that basis what I got would have been very good value at £6.95. When the bill arrived, however, the dish I had was down on the bill as an Adana Shish at £11.45. My earlier smugness rapidly disappeared.
This made for much less of a good deal and I raised the seemingly anomalous bill with the waiter. The response was along the line of “Well, that was what you ordered”. I pointed out that I had ordered the lamb kofte off the lunch menu. Not to be moved the waiter insisted I had ordered and got something off the main, rather than lunch, menu.
It seems my reference to “main” as in “mains” (course) off the lunch menu
was interpreted as being off the main (non lunch offer) menu. Odd that, as when I ordered I was pointing at the item described on the lunch menu as lamb kofte and never mentioned an Adana shish (albeit I believe, totally different name aside, they are very similar things).
As I was assured I got a main menu sized (rather than lunch menu – assume for that you only get one kofte rather than two I had) dish I somewhat reluctantly paid up, but felt I had been rather Del Boy’d.
On the booze front they have a reasonable selection of reds
and white wines. Always nice to see Turkish wine (very underrated) on a menu in a Turkish place.
At first sight, the mark ups are not too bad. The Turkish Villa Duca red retails at £8.95, so £19.50 is a fair price.
A couple of Sherries are on the menu (including the ever reliable Tio Pepe), but in a rage inducing (to me) 50ml format and at a very robust mark up (£3.25 for a 50cl glass – really why bother with a measure that barely wets a proper wine glass – equates to nigh on £50 a bottle for a wine you can get retail for well under a tenner, even in Waitrose). If they sell a single shot (as that is what a 50ml measure is) of the Tio Pepe, I will be amazed. Shame as sherries and Montilla Moriles Wines (the other place) work well with Turkish food.
It was a work day lunch so we were off the booze and on the soft drinks. The selection here was a bit lacking in choice and detail.
Whilst not on the menu I asked if they had any Ayran (a yoghurt based drink popular in Turkey). The answer was yes
What I got was nice, if lacking in the rather essential salt element (doctored for my Western tastes I wonder – a poor assumption if so). This made it taste more like a kid’s yoghurt drink than a traditional Ayran. At £2 it was OK, but not what I was expecting.
The food was nice enough, with it being plentiful and satisfying rather than outstanding.
On the value front the lunch menu wrap was very good value at the £5.95 price, but my lamb kofte/Adana shish less so at the £11.45 price tag.
Would I go back? Hmmm not sure – the issue with the mix up between ordering the lamb kofte main off the lunch menu (what I thought I ordered) and an Adana shish off the main menu (what the waiter thought I ordered) has put me off a bit if I am honest.
It was probably all a regrettable mix up, but it didn’t half feel like a bit of “Del Boy” upselling (getting a different named dish to that which I asked for and even pointed to on the lunch menu when ordering made it an odd mix up to my mind).
If I do go back I will make sure I am very explicit as to what I am ordering, as saying the name and pointing to it on the menu doesn’t seem to suffice. Maybe I will expressed my order in another format, if there is a next time. Via a game of Hangman (two words and the first letter of the first word is definitely not an “A”), perhaps?
UPDATE: The management at Lezzet have emailed me and apologised for the mix up and invited me back for a meal. I appreciate the offer and the sentiment behind it. Whilst the fact that they have apologised for the mix up means I will go back as some point, I will do so unannounced and will certainly pay my way.
Address: 106 – 109 St. Mary Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DX.
Tel: 029 2132 1415
Website: click here.
Twitter: Don’t seem to be on it.
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 12.00 – 23.00