Regular readers will have read my previous frustrations of not being able to get good quality Turkish food at a reasonable price in the North West. They're either overpriced, spartan eateries targeted at the WAG/ ladies who lunch brigade or the sloppy, buffet-style joint for stags, hens and chavs which feature the famous Turkish dishes of onion rings and profiteroles. Neither of these restaurant types emulate the Bosporus, more like the River Mersey. It's not to say I haven't found pockets of the Eastern Mediterranean in Manchester though, the Armenian Taverna and Kosmos being amongst my favourites, and while they offer Turkish dishes, they are not Turkish eateries. However, walking along Deansgate today, I spotted Topkapi Palace which appeared to tick all the boxes. Cosy decor? Check. Authentic menu? Check. Value for money? Check. The Carnivore and I decided to take advantage of the lunch deal for £6.99 for 2 courses. That's my kind of price.
The staff were welcoming unlike the rudeness I experienced at Efes. Good start. Now the difficult bit; the menu had so much choice for veggies and meat eaters alike, it took us 15 minutes to decide. A seasoned Turkey traveller, memories of Istanbul and the sumptuous mezes I experienced in the old quarter of Sirkeci were conjured up whilst I read the menu with the vigour of a menopausal housewife reading 50 Shades of Grey. Please note, if your only experience of Turkey is the dire tourist trap that is Marmaris, chances are you don't know much about authenticity.
After much umming and aahing, I settled on a Tabule salad to start, which was presented beautifully. It was even better than the Tabboulehs I'd chowed down on in the Middle East- well done Topkapi! Seasoned with mint, parsley and those delectable peppers which are ubiquitous in the Eastern Med, this was a promising start to the meal.
Meanwhile, The Carnivore went veggie this time and had Humus to start, a generous, well garnished portion served with a basket of pitta fresh out of the oven. Glad to see they didn't commit the cardinal sin of a restaurant giving a few misshapen scraps of cold stale bread and charging for it! For the main event, The Carnivore reverted back to his Dubai days and had a Tavuk Kebab, beautiful grilled chicken served with Turkish pilaf rice and a bountiful salad. I went for the spicy Patlican peynirli which if you know Turkish, you'll recognise as an aubergine and cheese dish. This was also served with a salad garnish and generous dollop of pilaf rice. Pilaf is amazing, it has more substance than its brothers Pilau and Basmati and has a beautiful milky taste to it. As soon as I ate it, it was 1994 again and I was eating overlooking the sea in Alanya on the south Turkish coast. It's brilliant how foods can conjure up memories and a simple taste can transport you back on holiday. The Patlican dish was done in a madras-hot spicy pepper sauce, the aubergines fleshy and succulent, soaking up the spice, the flavour heightened with garlic. Amazing.
Sadly, the desserts and coffee specialities were a bit pricy so the meal was rounded off at Caffe Nero. They do serve ultimate Turkish staples like Baklava and Turkish Coffee, but at £4.50 and £2.50 respectively, this seemed steep although I don't doubt that they'll be tasty. Drop the prices by £1 and they'll be snapped up like hot cakes (excuse the pun). If you need a little ray of sunshine in drizzly Manchester or want to extend your holiday, Topkapi Palace is full of Eastern promise.