What did our reviewer make of the Turkish restaurant in Norwich with fans from across the county?
PUBLISHED: 09:57 08 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:05 08 December 2019
Norwich Turkish restaurant The Mediterranean is serving up authentic fare at refreshingly affordable prices.
You might have known The Mediterranean on Magdalen Street, Norwich in its previous incarnation when it was Marmaris, a Turkish cafe and bakery. But in 2016 owner Ali Alagoz gave the place a facelift, installing charcoal grills and a new name too.
Now, it's a popular spot for affordable, authentic Turkish food, and crucially, you don't need to book weeks in advance for the pleasure.
Originally from Elbistan in southern Turkey, Ali has lived in Norfolk for around 13 years and before that he ran a charcoal grill in London - the previous head chef is now at the helm of here The Mediterranean.
According to one member of bar staff, customers come from as far as Cromer and Yarmouth to eat here, and following recommendations, I'm keen to dive in.
The menu ranges from starters - traditional dips like houmous, cold meze, stuffed vine leaves, sucek (an Anatolian spicy beef sausage, not unlike chorizo), falafel, salads, lamb soup and freshly baked Turkish bread; and charcoaled meat and fish main dishes, alongside sharing shish platters and casseroles.
A small breakfast selection, served until 1pm, looks worth a try, with menemen (baked tomatoes, peppers and eggs) and the full Turkish breakfast mentally made note off for another trip.
With eyes only just bigger than our stomachs, we order enthusiastically, starting with lahmacun from the pide section of the menu.
This authentic Turkish pizza-like snack, made from thin, baked dough and topped with minced lamb, finely-chopped peppers, onions, parsley and spices, tastes exactly as it should - crispy, flavoursome and totally moreish.
Like the perfect pizza slice, it drips with a delicious deep red oil - the kind that will run down your elbows if you're not careful.
Next, we tackle a spread of dips - houmous, a spicy a'tom made from pureed aubergines, labne yoghurt and chillies, and a bright pink taramasalata, served with bread. We didn't actually order the houmous, but dig in anyway and happily pay for it.
A small plate of halloumi takes on the charcoal grill's delicious smoky aromas, and the sigara boregi, a feta-filled filo pastry, is perfectly passable, but does taste like it might have been frozen beforehand. Following up with staff, I am assured that they are made fresh.
The grilled onion salad, a stalwart Turkish side served with pomegranate molasses, is a disappointment, padded out with mushrooms and peppers.
Smoky, succulent lamb ribs arrive next (I told you we were hungry) and are pleasingly fatty, with a generous portion of bulgar rice that will later be scraped into a doggy bag with the other leftovers.
It tastes especially good with the medium-bodied Turkish red wine - though I must admit I am enviously eyeing the mixed shish plates being delivered to nearby tables. Next time.
A round of thick Turkish coffee and baklava rounds the meal off, before we are ready to roll ourselves home.
Located at the north end of Magdalen Street, it's an easy walk from the city centre.
On a Friday night, the restaurant was filled with helium balloon-toting multi-generational families celebrating birthdays, twentysomething couples, groups of guys sharing big plates of charcoal-grilled mix shish and younger children too.
Turkish music played, and the mouth-watering smell of the grill occasionally drifted over. The restaurant's atmosphere summed up exactly what a good restaurant should be - affordable and accessible, bringing in a diverse crowd.
We were well looked after, though when we asked to see the wine list, one waitress warned "They're all Turkish wine" like that might be a problem. I took this to say more about the reactions of previous oenophiles than the service.
A small list of Turkish wines, Efes beer on tap, a decent selection of bottled beers and spirits waving from behind the bar. Don't come here expecting a show-stopping cocktail; it's not that kind of place.
The Mediterranean has a ramp at the door, with easy access for wheelchair users.
Clean - and the burning scented candle was a nice touch.
If you're driving, you can park at the Magdalen Street pay and display car park, less than 5 minutes from The Mediterranean by foot.
With starters range from £4 and mains averaging between £10-15, The Meditterranean is refreshingly affordable.
The drinks list was also good value. Even with our over-ordering, our bill comes to £33 each, including two beers and a glass of wine. Not bad for a generous spread of starters and salads, a shared main, and coffee and dessert.
Service isn't included, and we leave our tip in cash.
The lahmacun was everything that lahmacun should be - moreish, lamby and affordable at £4 for two large slices.
Generous portions of affordable Turkish food, served up in a buzzy restaurant, The Mediterranean may have fallen short on a couple of classic dishes but the lahmacun is worth returning for and it's a great place for gathering around large sharing platters with a group of friends or family.
For more information, visit norwichturkishrestaurant.co.uk