Rebecca Fry savours a little bite of Turkish Delight on Mossley Hill

In the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson (and many other wise people, I’m sure), what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and for Istanbul BBQ & Bistro that is certainly true. After suffering a fire that ripped through their Woolton flagship last year they had no choice but to shut their doors for over four months which sadly lost them a whole load of money, customers and valuable staff members from their family-based team. 

You’re practically on an 18-30’s holiday without having to go any further than Menlove Avenue

With that in mind, it’s nice to know that same restaurant now seems to be doing better than ever. Re-opened, re-furbished and usually full to bursting on weekends, they’ve still somehow found the time to open up a second restaurant in Allerton this month and by all accounts they have big plans for it. 

2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Interior
Re-opened and re-furbished

The updated cocktail menu for example, while still not in full operation, will offer everything from a Cosmo to an umbrella-topped Sex on the Beach. There’s a wine list, bespoke G&T’s and a ‘Ladies Platter’ of Prosecco, pornstar martinis and kebabs. A little blast from the heating and a couple of shots of their traditional Raki liquer and you’re practically on an 18-30’s holiday without having to go any further than Menlove Avenue.

With the same warm lighting, painted wood and hanging Turkish lanterns, the new restaurant is almost identical to the original though there are understandably still signs that this place is brand-spanking new. Just over a fortnight over the finish line and the smell that hits you when you walk in is more like wet paint than meat-on-hot-coal and the staff spent an unfortunate amount of time valiantly battling the front door that seemed to have no problems whipping open at even the slightest suggestion of wind. 

2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Puff Bread
Turkish puff bread with light garlic butter and sweet carrot ezme
2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Hummus

All of this of course is part and parcel of a newly opened place, and after the first bite of Turkish puff bread (which incidentally, is free), all is easily forgiven. What sounds mundane is actually one of the best parts of dinner at Istanbul. A warm, billowing balloon of seeded flatbread looks more like a pillow than dinner. Whilst tempted to take a nap on it, light garlic butter and sweet carrot ezme pureed with onions and garlic carrot for dipping made it pretty hard to keep hungry hands away.

The back of the menu tells the story of the trams that ran either side of the European /Asian divide in Istanbul and the city’s divided roots are reflected in the menu. Traditional dishes like souvlaki, stuffed vine leaves and kofte sit alongside a selection of burgers, wraps and pide (Turkish pizzas).

2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Kalamar
Grilled kalamar (£5.95)
2020 02 20 Istanbul Garlic Prawns
Karides - hot garlic prawns (£6.95)

We went more traditional, proceeding with hummus (£4.95) followed by karides (£6.95), hot garlic prawns that were plump and buttery, both mopped up with equal enthusiasm. From our small selection of mezze it was only the grilled kalamar (£5.95) that didn’t quite hit the mark. Stuffed with feta and herbs, those stuffed little squid balls promised a lot but erred on the rubbery side and didn’t really deliver much of a punch in the mouth.

2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Iskender Tavuk
Iskender tavuk (£13.95)
2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Halloumi Kebab
Skewered halloumi (£11.95)

Unsurprisingly the kebabs are where Istanbul really deliver and they appear to come at a cheaper price tag here than in Woolton. Whilst smoke-kissed chunks of skewered halloumi (£11.95) made for an excellent vegetarian option, it was the iskender tavuk (£13.95) that was fought over with the most gusto. Charred chicken breast served in a tomato sauce is made creamy with a splodge of thick yoghurt. Squares of toasted pitta adds a crouton-like crunch to the top of the dish and, best of all become soft, juicy and saturated on the bottom. Bulgar rice with sweet tomato and herbs accompanies each but would be worth ordering on its own.

Istanbul has forged a name for itself in the local area already as a place to have good food and good fun at reasonable prices. If their other branch is anything to go by this place is destined to do well, and I for one really hope it does.

Istanbul BBQ & Grill, 165 Allerton Road, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, L18 6HG

Follow Becky on Twitter @eatlvpl

2020 02 20 Istanbul Liverpool Receipt

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The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 7.5/10

    Puff bread 9, kalamar 6, hummus 7, prawns 7, halloumi kebab 8, iskendar tavuk 9

  • Atmosphere 3.5/5

    Could have done with warming up a little.

  • Service 4/5