FOR A relatively compact city centre, Wakefield has a lot of restaurants.
Whether it’s a curry, Italian, American burger joint or even Japanese, you’ll find it. Which makes choosing to try somewhere new and untested a bit of risk.
However, the risk paid off when it came to visiting Olive and Meze, a Turkish grill and Cyprus Meze which opened seven weeks ago in the building which used to house Grill 31 on Northgate.
It would be easy to walk past the narrow-fronted restaurant, set alongside Wakefield favourites Rustico and Qubana, and to look at, it’s very much a work-in progress.
Chef and owner Zafer Firinci has 20 years experience in the restaurant industry and previously operated Tom, Dick and Harry’s in Wetherby, as well as two restaurants in Turkey.
As we stepped inside early on a Wednesday evening, we found the restaurant to be rather empty, with just one other table occupied.
Inside, the atmosphere was a little lacklustre, with no music or paintings to brighten up the walls. However, the warm and friendly welcome we were given as we took our seats soon made up for that.
The menu is vast, with no less than 20 starters to choose from, including cold and hot meze sharing plates, offering a taste of various Turkish and Cypriot specialities.
The sucuk, grilled Turkish garlic pepperoni with mushrooms, onions, peppers and home made bread, caught my eye, but ultimately I decided to go for the chilli king prawns (£6.95), while my dining companion, who is vegetarian, chose falafel (£4).
The starters arrived quickly, and I was impressed to be greeted with a large portion of prawns, pan-friend with mushrooms, onions, chilli and garlic. The presentation was quite lovely, with a side salad and various dips to go with it.
The prawns themselves were very tasty, with a nice crunch.
My friend was equally impressed by her falafel, which was served on top of hummus. Quite the falafel aficionado, she found the little deep-friend chickpea balls to be very fresh, with a mild seasoning.
We had been warned that there might be a little wait for our main course due to our choices, but we were surprised to find them arrive within no time at all.
For me, it had been a difficult choice for the main, as the extensive menu included 16 selections in the main section alone, and that was before considering the sea food, vegetarian and pide options.
Eventually I had decided on a Cypriot speciality, Klefitko - which narrowly won over the lamb moussaka and an intriguing chicken kavurma - Turkish style fajitas - which will have to wait for my next trip.
The kleftiki, a joint of lamb slowly cooked with oregano, garlic and herbs was very nice. While the lamb shank may not have been quite the feast for the eyes - it was presented in a rather dreary looking, watery juice - it was for the tastebuds.
The lamb fell straight from the bone and the herby flavours had me transported to the Mediterranean.
Served with potato and carrot, with bulgar rice and salad, it was a very generous portion and well worth the price tag in £14.90.
My dining partner was somewhat over-faced by her vegetarian pide, a huge stone baked pizza-style dish with vegetables feta, halloumi and mozzarella. The ingredients were fresh and it tasted spectacular, she said, and her only regret was not being able to finish it all. There were four pides on offer on the menu, all priced below £10. The kusbasi, with marinated lamb, onions, peppers, parsley, tomato and mozzarella, sounded particularly good.
The friendly atmosphere and good conversation made it an easy decision to go for dessert, and although the options were few, we both very much enjoyed our choices, both priced at a very reasonable £3.50.
My baklava, served with sliced oranges and ice cream, was delicious, and by far my favourite course of the night. Be sure to leave space to try it yourself.
The rich, sweet pastries were in stark contrast to the meaty, earthy main course and the were perfected with a squeeze of orange juice.
The chocolate fudge cake, my dining companion’s choice, was again very generously portioned, served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Again, the dessert was very tasty, but she enviously eyed up my slightly more continental option.
Such was the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant, we felt in no way forced to request the bill, and we sat happily enjoying our drinks as a large party who had entered shortly after us enjoyed their meal.
When we finally did request the bill, we were very pleasantly surprised to find the total much less than we expected - £45.
It was only after querying the bill that we discovered we’d inadvertently made the most of a mid week offer which sees two courses for just £13.50.
Considering my lamb alone was priced at £14.90, the offer, available all day Sunday to Thursday, makes Olive and Meze very affordable.
The bill included a large glass of wine, an Efes beer, and two soft drinks.
Comparable meals in Wakefield would easily cost upwards of £70, and I feel once word gets out about Olive and Meze, you’ll struggle to get a table.
The restaurant itself may be a little bare, but it has the main ingredients for success - good, tasty food, made from fresh ingredients and friendly, but not over bearing staff.
A few fine tweaks to the decor, and maybe a little background music, and it will fill up fast.
OLIVE & MEZE
Address: 31 Northgate, Wakefeld, WF1 3BJ
Telephone: 01924 609380
Opening times: Monday-Sunday noon-2pm and 5.30pm-9.30pm