Turkish style Excellent value for a frugal start to the year
After the fun and frolics of December, January and February are long, cruel months financially – so all the more reason to be seeking out bargains when it comes to eating out.
The deals offered at Zest are hard to beat. Available Monday to Friday evenings, all day Saturday and over Sunday lunchtime, two courses are £10 and three courses just £14.
By day, this Turkish- influenced café/bar offers good value breakfasts and there is also a light bite menu.
Alongside the main menu in the evening, there is a specials board with a few dishes carrying supplements of between £1 and £3 for the pricier dishes. Specials on the evening I visited included chicken tagine, beef stifado and red snapper fillets.
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A corner site at the top end of Gloucester Road, Zest is an informal sort of place with orange paintwork and pine furniture, giving the room a warm glow at night.
For a Tuesday evening after Christmas, it was doing a surprisingly brisk trade, with a dozen or so regulars eating there – many of them on first-name terms with the staff.
Taking advantage of the £10 for two-course deal, I started with a haddock and salmon fishcake, which arrived with a well-dressed cluster of leaves and a slick of tartare sauce, which was more of a caper-spiked mayonnaise.
The fishcake was large and deep with a crisp breadcrumb exterior. Inside, the haddock and salmon had been mixed with mashed potato and herbs, but the fish certainly outweighed the spuds.
To follow, the hot mezze was a generous plate of food that would have easily justified its usual price tag of £9.25, let alone part of a £10 deal for two courses.
Each component was hard to fault – smooth hummous, well made Turkish couscous, silky and intense carrot purée, spicy chilli chutney, soothing tzatziki, crisp filo cigars filled with feta and parsley and another filled with minced beef and onion, hot triangles of pitta bread and cumin-scented mince lamb kofte. The star of the show was a wooden skewer speared with large pieces of chargrilled chicken shish, peppers, red onions and spicy Turkish sausage.
Washed down with a bottle of Efes Turkish beer (£3.25), the total bill came to £13.25, which, for the amount of food and the experience, was excellent value.