After an afternoon sojourn at The Mad Turk, Stamford, where a friend and I drank wine and ate delicious mezze in the heat of the summer sun, I was keen to make a return visit to try the full evening menu, impressed by what I had experienced so far. What I wasn’t counting on is how long it would take me to book a table at the well-liked restaurant, which has been Stamford’s number one place to dine (according to Tripadvisor) for quite a while! Everyone time I called, the place was full but eventually I got a table for my birthday last year and another one more recently. And there’s a reason why The Mad Turk is always fully booked and rated so highly by locals and visitors alike, and that’s because the whole experience, from start to finish is faultless.
Tucked away on St Paul’s Street, The Mad Turk is housed in one of the town’s oldest dwellings, it’s low ceilings and door frames a tale-tell sign of it’s age; exposed beams and low light add to the ambiance, with mosaic lanterns sprinkling the walls with a brightly coloured confetti shower. Bulging walls and a narrow, twisty staircase made me feel as though I could be dining in a Cappadocian cave.
My guest and I were shown upstairs to another cosy, low-ceilinged room and given the menu to peruse; we ordered drinks with help from the lovely waitress, who recommended the Buzbag Beyaz, a white wine made from two native Turkish grapes which has a refreshing citrus nose, with hints of apricot and lychee.
Choosing from the food menu was a slightly more challenging task as everything sounded delicious- but we eventually choose a mixed mezze for two (£17.99) and The Mad Turk’s Ultimate Mangal. To say the mezze were plentiful is somewhat of an understatement! There were so many dishes that they almost covered the entire table and all looked so good that it was hard to know where to start. The flatbreads were delicious- warm and soft but with a with a slight crunch on the outside; they were perfect for scooping up great mouthfuls of homemade humous and the intense tomato dip, which I could have eaten bowls of. The borek (the feta and herb stuffed filo pastry cigarillo) and kalamar (calamari) were perfectly crisp and a joy to eat; the slices of sujuk, a spicy Turkish sausage made from beef, were smoky, fatty and moreish. Even the simplest offering of olives had been elevated to a new level, served slightly warm in a pool of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs. It was a lot of food to get through but we just kept going back for more because it was all so delicious and exciting.
The Ultimate Mangal was just as good- a plate piled high with chicken and lamb shish, lamb cutlet, kofta and a chargrilled green pepper atop of bulgar wheat and rice mounds. A fiery chilli sauce is served on the side for those who dare set their taste buds on alight!! The meat, which is marinaded, was tender as anything, and really tasty; the kofta/ koftesi was well spiced and succulent, the chop perfectly cooked and the crisp wine on the side was the perfect marriage for the hearty mangal.
We just about managed to finish the plate, but obviously had to try the desserts! A selection of tempting sweets were on offer, available individually or as part of dessert trio, which is what we ordered. The sweets were variations on a theme- pastry or sponge with nuts and a honey syrup- a combo that never fails to deliver, especially the tel kadeyif, crispy pastry soaked in the sweet syrup- heavenly!
We left with full tummies and happy faces; there’s something very special about The Mad Turk that goes beyond the usual dining experience. Sure, the food is fantastic- it’s fresh, filling and exciting- but owner and head chef Kaz and his wonderful team of staff/ family deliver so much more than that, it feels like you’re part of their extended family for the evening, welcomed with open arms and a warm smile and when you leave a restaurant feeling like that, you are bound to go back again, which is why, I’m certain, that The Mad Turk is repeatedly voted the top restaurant in town! If you want to visit, I’d call them now- you may have to wait a while to get a table but it’s definitely worth it!
Until next time,
The Stamford Foodie