ONE of the pleasures we foodies have is comparing notes on our favourite places to eat, usually starting with “have you tried?” and ending with “you should, it’s fine”.
Over the years, one place that has kept cropping up has been Nargile.
It’s one of those city restaurants that clearly has a loyal fan base.
So, after years of gentle nudging from fellow food fans I decided to give it a rattle and see what all the fuss is about, despite my status as a Turkish food novice.
As Mrs B and I walked through the door we were struck by the atmosphere, chilled but friendly. The dining room had bags of style, with its white stucco walls and wood giving a rustic air, rather than the exoticism I had expected. Blame all those years of Fry’s Turkish Delight adverts.
Then I had one of those rare experiences in a restaurant ... a menu that had me on the clueless rather than confident side. There were a lot of pages of unfamiliar dishes that sounded great but I just didn’t know what would be coming my way. I love that.
We decided to play it safe to begin and try the meze, a sharing dish with lots of little dishes to delight your taste buds. It checked in at a high-ish £7.95 a head for a minimum of two folk, but we were rewarded with a mountain of food.
There was the creamiest, yoghurty tzatziki and freshest packed-with-flavour humus for us to attack with pitta breads, drawn by their familiarity.
But the little chicken dish with its kick of chilli and the tuna with a perfect crunch of chickpeas was equally fine and the beetroot and dill was a winning combination.
Then the hot dishes arrived, with succulent spicy sausage that delivered a tingle to the tongue, and light pastry wrapped around pungent feta.
There was a riot of flavours going on on our table, sharp, sweet, lemony, spicy, salty ... all of it fine.
This was going to be a hard act to follow for the mains.
I had, once again, taken the safe option with a shish kofte kebab. I must admit that the thought of kebab shop offerings of this dish lingered in the back of mind, albeit the cost of this version was getting on for three times as much.
But when my plate arrived I realised that would be like comparing a fast food burger with a fine steak. The two long skewers of minced lamb were perfection on a plate. Subtle, yet spicy, with new-to-me herbs to savour and a tomato sauce that brought chilli to the party.
It was mmmm-good. A touch salty, though possibly to balance the rice and salad that came with it, which were on the bland side.
Meanwhile, Mrs B was wasting little time working through her pilich special, a dish new to us.
A bed of chopped pitta supported slices of marinated chicken breast, slathered with a garlic yoghurt with chilli and butter sauce.
“It’s like a Turkish version of pizza,” she ventured, offering me a forkful. It was delicious.
We were done eating and left feeling on the stuffed side of satisfied.
Now, where else have I been told to try but haven’t so far?