“ Address: 34-36 Houndsditch / London EC3A 7DB / England „
Once a month I like to meet up with my mum and try out a different restaurant. As Kazan City has a 50% off offer on toptable and is close to where I work I thought we would give it a try.
From the moment we stepped in till the end of the evening I was very impressed! The service is very attentive but not over bearing, the food is some of the best turkish food I have ever had and the decor is beautiful.
I would recommend you go on an empty stomach as the food is very filling and you get complementry bread and hummus before you order. We ordered a mezze starter for two which included hummus, tabouleh, falafel, hellimi and 4 other dishes. To be honest this was far too much for us but too delicious to leave any. The next time we went we shared the mezze for 2 people between 4 of us and that was plenty.
For the main course I had lamb wrapped in a aubergine parcel with rice and salad. It was the most tender lamb I have ever had! As we were so full, we didn't have dessert but we have been back another 4 times since I can honestly say the food has always been tasty and faultless!
The other reason I think Kazan City is fab is the bar at the front of the restaurant. It's small but cosy and you are greeted by a friendly waiter who brings over some mixed nuts and olives. The cocktail list is impressive and better still it is half price on alcohol between 4-7pm! I have been there for pre dinner drinks or just for drinks to catch up with friends.
If you do decide to go there please check out the toilets! They are the best toilets I have seen in a restaurant EVER! I love the individual towels you get to dry your hands, the gold keys used as taps and the burning incense.
Overall I would highly recommend this place to eat and drink and I think it is fantastic value for money with the toptable offer.
Mention to anyone that you eat out in central London on a regular basis, and you usually get one of two reactions. You'll either be regarded as having more money than sense, or as someone who just has more money. Yes and why is it, when the meal already costs more, they also see fit to charge a very cheeky 12.5% service? They were already going to get a bigger tip even at 10%.
What these doubters don't know is that despite an almost monthly sojourn 'up town', thanks to a website called www.toptable.co.uk, we never pay for more than half-price food. Yes, wine and extras are still at full price, but it "don't 'arf knock an 'ole" in the final bill.
Sometimes there are constraints, like sitting down before 7 pm, or Sundays only. This really depends on why the restaurant wants to put bums on seats.
In the case of the Kazan (Turkish) Restaurant at 34-36 Houndsditch, EC3, it's because Saturday night in this part of the City of London is practically dead (and likely to get 'deader' if the current financial gloom widens). It also helps that being fairly new to the scene, they are also trying to build up a clientele of 'regulars'.
After a short walk around the corner from the Bishopsgate exit of Liverpool Street station, first impressions are favourable with a neat appearance to the place although they couldn't spell 'Healthy' (Healty) on their daily specials board on the pavement. You are politely greeted at the door by waiting staff behind their 'rostrum' from which they confirm your booking, if you have one and shown to your table.
Table settings are smart with real linen napkins done up with ribbons (sounds naff but it wasn't ). Décor was 'modern palatial' with much use made of crystal glass lighting. Again, if this sounds gaudy, in context it wasn't, given that hint of the east that Turkey promises. In three corners of the floor area, a circular bench and table was set into an alcove, which would be a good venue for a sizeable party, say half a dozen.
Some people reviewing this place found the background music a bit, well not exactly background, but on the first night we were there, volume levels were fine. However, the 'turkisised' versions of Vivaldi and his ilk were a novelty at first, but after a while I began to get a flashback to the 80s when seemingly every restaurant had a copy of Kenny G's Winelight playing in a loop.
A second visit did indeed show up the high volumes experienced by previous diners.
Service was good without being pushy, although I do get a little annoyed by the constant attention to keeping my wine glass full, but that's just me.
Initial perusal of the menu shows that a very liberal view of what could be termed 'Turkish' has been used, for instance Albanian Liver(?). Of course if you take the Ottoman view, rather than a modern-day Turkish view, then including the odd Balkan dish is fine.
I like Turkish food, both when there, and over here. Turkey is a very fortunate country food wise, since its combination of a Mediterranean and a more northern climate give it access to almost a full range of raw materials and self sufficiency in most of them, possibly with the exception of bananas (still sourced courtesy of one Mr. Bob Dole and family), and its cuisine reflects a lot of this.
All the usual eastern 'Med' favourite mezze dishes are there, including hummus, tarama and stuffed vine leaves. There are however, some very interesting sounding alternatives.
My advice to those not sure how hungry they are is to forego a starter. You get olives and hummus every time they bring bread anyway. On our first visit, we even got a complimentary bowl of soup.
Along with the grilled meats that we have come to associate with Turkey, there is a wide range of more homely dishes, casseroles and stews for example. The lamb shank on mashed potato sounded and looked great too.
My starter last night was skewered mussels in batter. What an unusual taste combination but delicious nonetheless. Ruth went for the Borek (pastries) filled with feta and spinach, served with a lovely garnish of salad (including pomegranate seeds) and dates. Again, very tasty.
Faced with a huge main course choice, I caved in and ordered the 'Kazan Special' at the top of the menu, which is somewhat similar to a dish called Adana Kebab I've ordered elsewhere, being a layered selection of grilled chicken and kofta kebab, placed atop a pita bread which soaks up juices beautifully. The whole thing is laced with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with delicious thick yogurt. Hot pitas baked alongside the meat, and therefore bursting with savoury flavour were also supplied.
Under normal circumstances, this dish is priced at £14.95, but bear in mind that it cost me half of that.
We opted to 'stick with Turkish' for our choice of wine, a red called Yakut by Kavaklidere, which was robust and old enough to be 'out on its own'.
They don't try to palm you off with expensive branded water here, and are perfectly happy to make sure that your glass of iced tap water is kept 'bottomless'. This one of my first tests in my 'Am I coming back?' ratings and Kazan passes it with flying colours.
We couldn't really see our way to a dessert, so we opted for mint tea/Turkish coffee. This was accompanied by a very generous helping of loukum (Turkish delight with pistachio - only the real deal this time) and we could even have had more, merely by mentioning that it was delicious!
All in all, last night's meal cost £46 for two, including what I think is still a slightly cheeky 12.5% service. It was also about £6 less than our first visit, when we stupidly ordered a 'selection' of 4 starters, only to waddle away from the restaurant like those balloon toys that refuse to be knocked over.
Waiting staff are not only very friendly, but funny and cosmopolitan. One waiter was Moroccan, and we were able to compare transport notes with him as he lived near us! The waitress, who rather sweetly recognised us from a month ago, was French. It's the little details like this that give this place the feel of a visit to an old friend even when you've only been there twice.
Going back? You betcha, but not at full prices. There are too many other places vying for my affections at half price.
Enjoy an Ottoman gourmet dining experience.