The location might not be so glamorous, but if you are looking for great Turkish food, Hull’s Meze has it abundance, says Dave Lee.
I’ve an apology to make to the Aygun brothers. They own and run popular Turkish restaurant Meze on the bustling Cottingham Road in Hull, and I hadn’t been to eat there since they opened in 2014. The reason for my absence was, in all honestly, that I simply hadn’t fancied it. I was a fool.
The brothers (they both have first names, obviously, but I couldn’t wangle them out of them) have a long history in the city. One came from Turkey to study law at Hull University and then – when it proved far harder than he expected and he dropped out – he opened a takeaway almost exactly opposite where the restaurant now is. His brother worked in the restaurant game around the UK before he moved to Hull himself and the siblings came together to open Meze. They also live in separate flats above the restaurant, so this is a real lifestyle choice for both, and now I’ve actually bothered to show up, it’s clear they operate with admirable Mediterranean passion.
The main reason I hadn’t fancied Meze in the past was perhaps for the same reasons many others hadn’t; the building had been the site of a very average Italian restaurant and, before that, a fairly poor Chinese. Meze, though, has flourished in the past couple of years, popular with students from the nearby university as well as Hull’s foodie crew, drawn from their usual haunts on the Avenues.
After a year or so of people telling me to go, though, I relented and I found it a relaxed and enjoyable way to experience some unexpectedly tasty food. Everyone eats in one big, high-ceilinged room with efficient staff bustling around and the clatter of the kitchen ever-audible. Much of the menu is made up of the type of dishes you’ll be familiar with from any Turkish or Greek restaurant. The likes of (and these are Meze’s spellings, so don’t blame me if you think they look unusual) humus, tabule, baba ganoush, kalamar, falafel and kofte are well enough known and all are here made fresh and served in generous portions. Dishes that may also be well known, but were new to me, included manca – spinach, olive oil, mint and garlic in yoghurt; haydari – similar to manca but drier and with carrot; ispanakli gozleme – goat’s cheese and spinach in a pancake; and, my favourite, borek – crumbled feta, spinach and mint deep fried in a thin pastry triangle.
The best way to experience all these dishes and more is to order one of the platters. At £7.95 to £11.95 per person, they offer remarkable value and a healthy array of dishes from the hot and cold starters or the barbecue section, which features various chicken, lamb and steak kebabs, all marinated and perfectly barbecued so they remain succulent and moreish. The platters come with fresh baked focaccia and will probably be enough to fill many people, such is the volume of the servings. I’m made of stronger stuff, though, and (for the sake of thorough research) ordered a main dish as well.
In some ways, it’s a shame I bothered. Naneli tavuk – a dish invented by the restaurant featuring strips of chicken with asparagus, mint, honey, mushroom and a cream sauce – was the only disappointment of the evening. The chicken was a little dry and chewy and the whole thing was way under-seasoned. The levrek (sea bass) on the other side of the table looked a far better option. Simple grilled and served with a light olive oil dressing, it was probably the way to go after the meaty overkill of the barbecue platter.
There aren’t many desserts on offer at Meze, but why would you want any other option than baklava? Three blocks of one of the greatest puds ever invented served with pistachio ice cream on the side. The baklava is the only thing on the menu not made in-house, but you can’t make decent baklava in anything but a dedicated kitchen, so that’s forgivable.
We had Turkish coffee to go with the baklava and, with a couple of pints of Menabrea each, the whole bill came to a ridiculously reasonable £77. We’d really ordered too much, as well. Next time I go to Meze I’ll know that £50 should be ample for enough to eat to keep two of us sated for three days at least.
And I will be back. Meze has now been mentally re-filed as a really good place to eat a lot of excellent food for very little money. And you can never have too many of those on your culinary map.
Meze Bar & Grill, 31 Cottingham Road, Hull HU5 2PP. 01482 478560, mezebarandgrill.co.uk. Open daily: 12pm-12am.