Davey Brett checks out a new neighbourhood Turkish
It’s balloons that beckon us in. A flaccid pillar of yellow, white, blue ones wobbling in the wind outside. It could’ve been someone twirling an arrow or one of those tube people standing on top of a fan having a seizure. Something is happening and we want in.
Turns out the party had already taken place. Zeugma, a new Turkish restaurant a few units up from Baity in Didsbury, held its delayed opening party the night before. We walk in and the only giveaways are additional balloons on the inside back wall and our drinks menu, which upon opening, releases a slapstick dribble of water onto the table.
We find it quite amusing and the server, happy to replace it with a dry one, smiles and says “big party last night.”
It’s a self-assuredness that I associate with being in someone’s home
Zeugma is a traditional Turkish restaurant with an ever so slight glitzy banqueting hall feel. There’s a flower wall, some upmarket seating and a mixture of large and small tables. As we walk in, a large group sits at a table tucking into meze and a few other diners are scattered across the room. Promising signs for a Wednesday lunchtime.
The lunch menu is two courses for £12.95 or three for £15.95 and includes a selection of mains as well as salads and wraps. A peep at the dinner menu reveals hot and cold meze as well as charcoal grills, large mixed kebabs and platters to share. It’s a place that is probably best experienced as a ravenous group.
Straight off the bat, there’s a, "You're in my home now, you will be fed," warmth. As we decide what to order, a basket of warm Turkish naan is plonked on the table with accompanying dips and olives - all on the house. The warm bread suggests freshness and our server confirms they make their own in-house.
We order starters and mains with a pint of Efes and a large glass of Çankaya, a Turkish white. Large apparently the only size available. You know what they say, when in a restaurant named after the former Roman city of Commagene (famed for its mosaics), do as you’re told.
Our starters of spiced lentil soup (soup of the day) and pink lady arrive sharpish. The soup is wholesome, filling and lightly spiced with the richness of the meat stock shining through but it doesn't blow me away. I devour it regardless and clean the bowl with the bread.
The pink lady is intriguing. Essentially a big pile of dip, the beetroot and yoghurt base gives it the colour and consistency of a Mr Blobby sneeze, and perhaps due to the addition of mayo, it’s really moreish. A good example of ugly delicious with one solitary crisp in the middle standing like the dorsal fin of a shark raised in a whimsical pond edged with salad. The bread strikes again, scoop by creamy scoop.
The servers at Zeugma are good fun and the service is impeccable. Need the light turning up or down? No problem. After a bit of background on the place? Sister restaurants in Leeds and London and a side business in meat, hence the quality. When the mains arrive and a server catches me looking at the little pile of white rice with giant couscous on top, he informs me of the mound, “healthy one, unhealthy one”, with a cheeky grin.
It’s a self-assuredness that I associate with being in someone’s home. Menus are as familiar as the back of a hand, no task is a problem if it ensures a comfortable experience and easy conversation and a confident smile snuff out the slightest scrap of awkwardness. It’s innate hospitality.
My tavuk shish, large chunks of lean chicken cooked over hot charcoal, immediately transports me to of all places, West Bromwich. The choice of spices are different from that of a West Midlands Desi Pub - Indian-owned pubs with charcoal grills in the back - but the charring and charcoal flavour does the same thing it always does: makes me want to drop everything and dedicate my life to barbecue. A monk of the coals.
The grains are a welcome addition but the strip of crisp flatbread feels like it should either be a bigger pocket of bread packed with goodies or absent. The meat is great but the plate looks a bit sparse.
The vegetarian moussaka my dining partner orders sits in a memorable, rich tomato sauce that tastes like it has been cooked down, slowly, for some time. The thick layer of béchamel on top is creamy and generous. Stuffed, we don’t need dessert, but there’s baklava and sütlaç (rice pudding) if we’d have had room.
Zeugma is fun and lunch has made me want more. It’s the sort of place to introduce to friends, share meze, drink Efes and feel the stuffiness that comes with most dining experiences, evaporate. This is a neighbourhood restaurant to be treasured, where staff become friends and life’s milestones are celebrated.
Zeugma, 747-749 Wilmslow Rd, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6RN
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.
Bread 7, soup 6, pink lady 6, tavuk shish 6.5, moussaka 7
Confident, doting, relaxed - a homely welcome
Comfortable, authentic music, fun