Thursday, August 31, 2006



Regular readers will expect politics here (of course), Doctor Who (no doubt), and wonder where today’s review of The Avengers has got to (ask BBC4, who aren’t showing it this week). What you might not expect is a restaurant review, but if you live near or happen to visit Stockport, there’s one I’d recommend. Richard and I nipped up north for a few days last week to visit our respective parents. While there we tried out my parents’ new favourite place to eat, the EleganZe Turkish Restaurant and Meze Bar on Petersgate in the middle of Stockport. And it’s superb.

They do have a website, but it’s rather, ah, minimalist; so is the restaurant’s décor, but that’s in a good way. Still, at least there’s a map. Have a look at the menu there – it’s quite mouth-watering, and I find myself wanting to go back there and sample the Chef’s Special (lamb with creamed aubergines), but from the lack of an e-mail address I suspect they had to get someone else to do it and are just leaving it like that. That’s a shame, as among EleganZe’s attractive qualities is the price and the combinations offered for it, which the site doesn’t really advertise. We went along at lunchtime (12-3.30), when they offer a set menu of starter, main course and coffee or tea for just £4.95. The set menu is a selection from the ordinary menu, rather than providing cheaper alternatives, and the selection changes every week – ideal for that missing regular update to the website. But once you go offline and walk into the restaurant itself, I have no complaints.

Richard and I both went for the £4.95 lunch menu, and though we were very tempted by a lot of it, we both decided to try things we wouldn’t normally go for. I’m particularly fond of lamb, while Richard prefers beef and chicken; naturally, he chose two lamb dishes, while my main course was chicken and my starter was one of their wide range of vegetarian dishes. The Havuc Tarator was about as far from what I’d usually order as I could go: yoghurt flavoured with garlic and mixed with grated carrot, served with pitta. Slightly to my surprise, it was delicious, thick, cool and tangy, though Richard’s Sigara Borek – rich little minced lamb pastries – just nipped it for me. The main courses, however, were the other way round (both served with rather nice piles of salad and rice). Richard had opted for Kasarfi Kofte, char-grilled, delicately spiced minced lamb filled with cheese. It was tasty and rather nice, though as Richard said, not unlike a very upmarket lamb cheeseburger without the bun. On the other hand, my Chicken Casanova was terrific. Sliced chicken, tomato and courgette in a thick, creamy wine sauce, it was quite the tastiest thing I’d had in months. All in satisfying portions, too. As you’d expect, my parents have been there frequently, and there’s nothing they haven’t spoken highly of; we were driving back to London the next morning, but we very nearly delayed a few hours to try EleganZe again. Only that my parents couldn’t make it and the thought of approaching London in rush hour put us off.

I have to praise the service as well beyond anything you might expect. There was a very pleasant ambience when we visited, and the owner, Anil, was friendly and welcoming even before, about half-way into the meal, I introduced myself as the outlying member of his regular Wilcock clan. Apparently, I look nothing like the rest of the family (I reckon I have my Mother’s nose. Poor Mum). Richard and I rarely eat out in central London – until discovering EleganZe, the only restaurant I’d really recommend is our local and Docklands’ finest Indian, the Gaylord (no, really) – but let’s just say that London restaurants are not relaxed and welcoming places, let alone in all the horror stories in reviews.

The remarkable service I’m talking about, however, wasn’t while we were there. My Grandad’s 95 and not in good health; after living a very independent life, this year he’s had to move to Stockport and sheltered accommodation and is frequently in hospital, as he is at the moment. Though EleganZe opened last July, my parents discovered it in February and instantly fell in love with the place, as did my Grandad, a much less cosmopolitan eater. After two visits, Mum and Dad turned up without Grandad. Anil and Rachel immediately asked after him; hearing he was in hospital, they were not just concerned, but sent him a card. When he was discharged that time, they then sent flowers and – as Grandad particularly likes their soups – gave Mum tubs of soup to take home and get his strength up. On other occasions they’ve even changed their opening hours to fit in with when he was up to a visit.

So there’s a restaurant with a wide menu of inexpensive and particularly good food, run by people so nice that the service can only be described as way above and beyond the call of business. Is it any wonder that I’m recommending it? If you get the chance, pop in and try a meal.

Besides, after Millennium doing down Polish food recently, I thought I should stick up for the restaurant trade. Millennium’s Daddies have even been to a Polish restaurant in London, and while it wasn’t quite as impressive as EleganZe, the food was jolly nice (I don’t remember eating a single beetroot, though there were some very tasty things done with potatoes).

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