Saturday, 8 February 2020

Saray, Turkish restaurant, City Road, Cardiff review


Despite supposedly having my finger on the pulse of Cardiff’s restaurant scene, the phenomenon that is City Road’s Saray has passed me by.

We've had numerous recommendations for this Turkish restaurant from Mrs G’s work colleagues over the last year or so yet never managed to visit. A final recommendation from friends was the straw which broke the camel’s back and we swiftly booked in for dinner the next weekend.


On the Saturday night we visited the huge dining room was packed to the rafters and people thronged the foyer waiting for tables and takeaways. 

A fully-loaded charcoal grill and a chiller heaped with meat were both very good omens.

 
Saray is booze-free so we ordered a couple of juices. Mango (£3.50) was ice-cold, thick and heady with tropical fruit whilst lemon-mint (£3.50) was enjoyably sour and fragrant with garden herb.

 
Complimentary warm nigella and sesame-studded bread, garlic-twanged yoghurt, olives, and a pokey tomato and red pepper dip were all the starters we needed. But, we fool-heartedly ordered a few plates of meze to share.

 
Smokey, silky aubergine pulp dip (baba ganoush), thick yet smooth hummus and a coarse potato and aubergine patlican soslu were the highlights of a cold mix mezze (£7.50).


Dolma (£3.50) were stuffed with mixed herb spiked rice cooked in good quality olive oil. Serving them warm meant they were lighter in texture than other examples I’ve eaten.


A hot mixed mezze (£9.50) combined fine-textured spicy Turkish sausage (sucuk), decent falafel, golden halloumi pieces and a quartet of light filo-pastry pockets filled with an ooze of tangy feta cheese and parsley.

 
But, this was all filler distracting from the headliner.

A platter for four (£58.50) was a beautiful behemoth which could have comfortably fed six. This looker of a dish more than delivered in flavour - beautifully licked with smoke, this was some of the best chargrilled meat I’ve eaten in Cardiff.

Impeccably juicy chicken and lamb shish pieces, tender fat-laced lamb ribs, soft-textured shavings of lamb and chicken shawarma and herb fragranced chicken kofta were all bang on the money. It was only the lamb kofte which could have been a touch more juicy. 

 
They were perched on a lovely bed of ’alf and ’alf, crisp workmanlike fries and buttery, meat juice-soaked orzo-flecked rice. We admitted defeat and packaged up three boxes of leftovers to take home (editor’s note - I’m eating a box whilst I write this).

A bowl of well-dressed leaves were the archetypal token effort. They remained barely touched.

 
Stuffed, we ordered dessert. Again we really didn’t need to bother as we were brought complimentary pieces of baklava. An excellent example of their type, the layers of crisp filo stuffed with nuts and soaked in sugar syrup were light and not at all dense or claggy.

 
Cups of free mint tea were also provided.


I’ve always wanted to try kunefe (£5.50) so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity even though I could barely muster more than a couple of mouthfuls. A piping hot metal dish nestled a freshly-baked sandwich of golden crisp butter-soaked shredded wheat-like pastry topped with ground pistachios and filled with a stringy ooze of sweetened creamy mozzarella-esque cheese.

 
I wasn’t fully sold on this sweet-savoury hybrid of a dessert but a friend across the table thought it was the bee’s knees, reminding her of trips to the Middle East. Perhaps it's a grower?


We all had a delicious meal at Saray. Service was friendly and super-swift, the atmosphere is buzzing and the grilled meats are cracking. Next time I’ll skip the starters and desserts and just go for the main event.

The Details:

Address - Saray, 164-166 City Rd, Cardiff CF24 3JE
Web - https://www.sarayturkishcuisine.co.uk/
Telephone - 029 2025 2350

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