Restaurant review: Istanbul Meze and Grill, Huddersfield

SWITCH on the TV any night this week and you’ll witness harrowing scenes from Syria.

Istanbul Meze and Grill, John william Street, Huddersfield

SWITCH on the TV any night this week and you’ll witness harrowing scenes from Syria.

The country seems destined to roll inexorably on towards civil war as government and private militias battle it out for control.

But in these sad times, it is heartening to know that there are some good things which have emerged from the Levant and found their way to Huddersfield.

I am referring in particular to the recipes brought from her homeland by Kurdish Syrian Shahrazad, the cook at the Istanbul Meze and Grill under the clock on John William Street in Huddersfield town centre.

The tiny Istanbul is more of a cafe than a restaurant. With seating for just 23 – and that’s a bit of a squeeze – word is starting to spread about this no-frills eaterie.

It won’t win any prizes for the interior design, which relies heavily on Formica and plastic panelling, but the Istanbul has plenty of fans on the restaurant section of the Trip Advisor website, having won plaudits for the tastiness of its dishes and the low prices.

The Istanbul was opened last October by 21-year-old Nechirvan “Chetto” Ibrahim, who took over the lease from his uncle, who had previously run a take-away on the premises.

The family came over from Syria seven years ago and have joined forces to open the restaurant. But it’s mum Shahrazad who is the secret ingredient.

She has built up a reputation for her good cooking back home and among the Kurdish community here and is now trying out her traditional recipes on Yorkshire folk.

Dad Ahmed, a businessman in his previous life, is very friendly and welcoming. He has taken on the roles of head waiter, drinks supervisor, table cleaner – they were spotless – and anything else that’s required.

Istanbul Meze and Grill, John william Street, Huddersfield
Istanbul Meze and Grill, John william Street, Huddersfield

Business is building nicely as word of fresh food at low prices spreads. But if it doesn’t work out, Chetto always has another string to his bow. He is an amateur boxer who trains at Linthwaite and is planning to turn pro as a welterweight this summer.

Shahrazad was a teacher in Syria and now also manages to fit in part-time work as a teaching assistant at Spring Grove.

We went early last Friday evening and there were a few other people in. Most of the starters and wraps cost from £2.50 to £3.50. There was halloumi (Cypriot cheese), olives, hummus, tzatziki, ezme (a spicy salsa dip), muhammara (hot pepper dip) , falafels, baba ganoush (mashed aubergine) and stuffed vine leaves.

We couldn’t decide, so we ordered the signature dish of mixed meze, a combination of all of these with unleavened bread, at £7.95.

It arrived garnished with pomegranate seeds and chopped olives. The meze was excellent, nothing from the supermarket here.

Every dish was hand made by Shahrazad to her own recipe. The dips were full of delicate flavours and the vine leaves were moist and fragrant.

With an extra piece of bread, this would have made a very good light lunch. But we ploughed on.

The problem was that we had been spoiled by the starters. Our main courses were good but could not scale the heights of the meze.

My dish (£4.95), the name of which escapes me, was small pieces of chicken cooked in tomatoes with a rice and salad accompaniment. The chicken was tasty and the rice was light and fluffy. You can even have chips if you want.

Trish’s dish was the special of mixed lamb, rice and nuts which were coated and fried to produce a pleasant and delicate flavour (also £4.95). All this was washed down with a couple of soft drinks, as there is no alcohol served.

Lamb and chicken feature heavily in the main meals, but there’s also wraps and pizzas. And the Istanbul is a vegetarian’s delight with a host of dips, falafels and vine leaves as well as dishes such as imam bayildi (stuffed aubergine).

VERDICT: Cheap and cheerful with tasty food makes it a good budget choice for a quick lunch or early evening meal. Go for the meze.

Istanbul Meze and Grill

64 John William Street, Huddersfield town centre, HD1 1EH

Tel: 01484 533399

Website: None

Opening hours: Noon until late Monday to Saturday

Children: Welcome

Disabled: One step into restaurant, narrow toilet.

The bill: £22.25, including two cans of pop

Would you go back? Definitely for the meze

 

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