Jonathan Schofield pens a poem about rocket - well, it's more exciting than the food

KAI looks fine. Outside it has a little terrace from which on hot days customers will be able to sip cocktails and inhale fumes from the Witch Way double deckers picking up passengers on Deansgate. 

Inside, the restaurant is sharply decorated with lots of dark blues brightened by a flowery feature ceiling and a black and white checkerboard floor.

I ate the fish and ignored the contemptible, bitter brassica

Fine, ok, all right, decent, are the adjectives a reviewer needs for Kai. The food is sort of Turkish, clockwork Turkish, but a quick read of the menu shows there’s nothing out of the ordinary on offer here. 

The best thing we had was the hot meat platter mezze (£12.95) with some baby prawns in an odd but not unpleasant sauce. There was also decent kofte and halloumi, which worked even better when joined on a fork. The chicken livers were not to my taste but my dining partner enjoyed them. 

2019 01 10 Kai Interior
Inside, the restaurant is sharply decorated

The cold mezze platter (£9.95) had a fine red pepper dip but the other bits and pieces, the baba ganoush, the hummus and Russian salad were exceptionally bland, lacking any edge, almost lacking any flavour. The mezze platters were listed under ‘starters’. They are big starters but you can choose the different elements individually if you want to save space for the mains. 

My sea bass main was £15.95 and not worth it. An attempt to green the appearance was made with rocket. I wrote a little verse about rocket as I ate the fish and ignored the contemptible, bitter brassica.

Tell me, brave chef in the kitchen,

Why you have this addiction,

To this horrible little green?

Most of your guests aren’t keen.

So dismiss its over appliance

Because that’s not rocket science

The Americans call it arugula,

But using it would be rude-of-ya. 

I reckon that is the first poem written about rocket. It’s another pioneering Manchester first, probably up there, or even, exceeding these.

2019 01 10 Kai Cold Mezze
Cold mezze platter - almost lacking any flavour
2019 01 142019 01 10 Kai Seabaa With Rocket Lurking To The Left
Sea bass was £15.95 and not worth it

Rocket aside, the fish flesh was as expected and timed well, but it sat on a totally tasteless stack of vegetables and came with a sauce as thin as a supermodel. The mixed grill (£17.95) was dreary again, aside from the very good lamb chops. 

The problem with Kai is that it does the basics but offers little else. I have travelled the length and breadth of Turkey from Istanbul to the Iran border, and whatever region I crossed there was always colour and vibrancy to the food. If Kai wants to be anything other than close to the bottom of the list when choosing a restaurant on or near Deansgate then it needs to dramatically up its game.

The service was better than the food. The waiter liked to chat and told us that the restaurant is owned by Zouk, the Pakistani restaurant off Oxford Road. If that’s the case, the managers need to take a trip to Turkey to understand the rich tradition of cooking in that beautiful country. I could help pass the time during the flight. I wrote some poems about Turkey when I was there and while they might not be as good as my epic poem about rocket above, I’d definitely give them to the Zouk folk to read. They are certainly more exciting than the food at present.

Kai Restaurant, 82-84 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2ER. Tel: 0161 832 3431

Follow @JonathSchofield on Twitter

2019 01 142019 01 10 Kai Bill
99p for 'carbon free dining' is not a renewable energy tax, but a charitable donation, apparently

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 5/10

    Cold mezze 5, hot mezze 6.5, sea bass 4, mixed grill 6

  • Service 3/5

    Keen and amusing

  • Ambience 2.5/5

    Still getting there