Since first experiencing Turkish cuisine while on a family holiday, I’ve become something of an obsessive.
Of course I’ve always been partial to a kebab, particularly after a beer or two, but that 2014 visit to Mugla province introduced me to all manner of mouthwatering dishes.
Turkish restaurants have been increasing in number over the past few years and I’m sure that is a consequence of more British families choosing to holiday there but it might well have as much to do with the food being so delicious.
Liverpool has several to choose from, and those I’ve tried are excellent, but there’s a compelling case for the best being right here in Chester.
Istanbul BBQ is the kind of place you might not know existed unless you stumbled across it or were tipped off. Given its location off the beaten track on Brook Street, the fact there was not a spare seat across the two floors on the Saturday night my partner and I visited suggests it is well-recommended.
And deservedly so because our experience was nothing but positive: Service is relaxed and friendly yet efficient, the food was exceptional and the atmosphere a delight.
This is a place that caters for all, couples young and old, both British and Turkish families and bigger groups out for an evening of fun and laughter.
Experimental palates and those who are not so adventurous will find something that appeals on the menu, where the stars are chicken and lamb, cooked on the open grill and served with rice, vegetables, salad, sauces and bread.
To start we decided on a hot mezze platter (£11.50) for two and a side of Istanbul mushrooms (£4.50), sliced and pan fried to perfection with garlic.
The platter was a clever choice, allowing us to sample six traditional appetisers: grilled halloumi, crisp chicken wings, moreish lamb meatballs, stuffed rolls of crisp filo pastry and our favourite sucuk, a deliciously spicy sausage.
Our waiter advised us not to fill up on bread, promising us the mains would take some finishing and he was not wrong.
I opted for a mixed grill (£17.50) which included skewers of chicken, lamb and kofte, seasoned minced lamb, chicken thighs and a lamb chop. The mountain of meat was a carnivore’s dream and our waiter’s promise had been met.
My partner went for heavens half kebab (£15.50), her choice of two skewers from the main menu, from which she chose chicken and lamb.
Moist, tender and packed with flavour, we could find no fault with the meats, which came with a generous serving of rice, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, onion and a wedge of lemon along with yoghurt and a tomato and chilli sauce on the side.
Slowly but surely, we worked our way through our mains and although it did take some finishing, we got there in the end. Or at least I did, as my partner was forced to admit defeat and I intervened to ensure no meat went to waste.
Following a short rest, we asked for the dessert menu and looked over the options and decided to share another platter, this one containing a taste of three traditional sweets: baklava, sekerpare and kadayif.
This was the first time either of us had experienced Turkish desserts and we cleared the plate readily but agreed the sweet and sticky syrup would have made it difficult for us to finish a larger serving. Having smaller samples of each of the three proved a wise decision, particularly for someone who does not have an especially sweet tooth.
At this point we were filled to excess and ready to hit the road after an outstanding meal that, to us at least, had provided a true taste of Turkey.
Istanbul BBQ might not be the most glamorous setting but maybe that’s part of what makes it so appealing. The warm welcome, energetic buzz and delicious food: it’s almost as if you’re back on the Aegean coast.
Scores on the doors:
Quality of food: 9/10
Value for money: 9/10
Food hygiene rating: 4/5 (via scoresonthedoors.org.uk, last inspected March, 2014)
Food brag rating (how good it looks): 4/5
What does TripAdvisor say? Ranked second out of 480 places to eat in Chester. Reviews include ‘don’t miss the hidden gem’, ‘truly exceptional’ and ‘food and service second to none’.
Where is it? 85 Brook Street, Chester CH1 3DX, 01244 326222
Chester Chronicle reviewers always pay for their own meal and we don’t tell them in advance that we’re coming to visit.
Have you been to Istanbul BBQ? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below: