Published: 05:00, 24 February 2022
| Updated: 09:48, 24 February 2022
I've never ventured to the Mediterranean, but I have had my fair few styrofoam boxes of grease and regret claiming to showcase the region's cuisine.
So I had no idea what to expect when I walked in to Kaniklar Mangal, Maidstone's newest Turkish restaurant.
The grand opening of the Kaniklar Mangal Turkish restaurant in Maidstone
Formerly Finch House, the artisan café in Week Street has been transformed into a dining area with seating for up to 100 people.
As I stepped foot into the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice that it was spacious and beautifully decorated - a far cry from the stinging fluorescent bulbs and shouting you get at 3am after a booze-filled night out.
In fact I'd go far as to say the venue was fit for a date night.
I even dropped the girl I'm seeing a text, till I remembered she was vegetarian - a quick once over at the menu and realised there were veggie options, get in!
With ceramic plates, metal knives and forks and sturdy tables, I got the impression that I had walked into an establishment which had an air of luxury to it.
I was met with a warm welcome from owner Ali Kanik and his brother Naki Kanik, who run a number of takeaways in the area, having met them at the grand opening earlier this month.
Now it was time to really enjoy the experience, without the cameras and droves of first-time customers.
I was optimistic. Google reviews were glowing and put it above Master Kebab in Gillingham, which is rated Medway's 10th best eatery and has 4.8 out of 5 stars on review site TripAdvisor.
I've been to Master Kebab, and whilst it's good, it certainly couldn't compare.
One thing that popped up time and time again was the atmosphere.
From the moment I stepped in I was endearingly referred to as ‘boss’, the music was traditionally Mediterranean and relaxing and I felt important.
I eagerly scoured the menu for what would be my lunch.
To choose from there were kebabs, yoghurt kebabs, burgers, pizza, steaks, fish and vegetarian dishes.
Ever the purist with whatever I do, I wanted the most authentic experience.
'Mangal' translates as 'open charcoal grill' in Turkish and I was glad to see everything was made fresh in front of you.
In the end I chose to go with the chicken doner platter, with slices of meat served with rice and freshly cut salad.
The salad was of real special interest to me, I’m usually used to a bomb of lettuce stacked high to the brim of my takeaway box.
Thankfully I was presented with a range of options, with red cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce and jalapenos, all seasoned.
When Ali Kanik asked if I wanted rice or bulgur wheat, I promptly replied ‘both’ and the hospitable man got to work.
My waitress appeared almost immediately with freshly oven baked Turkish bread, and a cold meze to go with it.
I would go on to learn that the cold meze was called acili ezme, a spicy salsa which consists of tomatoes, onions, red bell peppers, cucumber, padron peppers, olive oil, fine table salt and chilli flakes.
I could tell a great deal of preparation had gone into the whole process and the service was efficient but far from rushed.
I tucked into my bread and cold meze before I was again greeted by my waitress for my beverage choice.
Not wanting to break the bank, ‘Tap water’, I responded, to which she retrieved for me in a fancy glass jug.
It wasn’t long before my food arrived and I wasn’t disappointed.
For starters (no pun intended), the presentation was top notch, definitely not the bomb site you'd receive at 3am on a night out with chilli sauce bursting at the seams of a takeaway box.
It was a real platter fit for a king.
When I tucked into my meal, I was beyond ecstatic, so many flavours blended together.
There’s just something about fresh food provided with a smile that just reels me in.
The meat was succulent, the rice was filling, the salad was cooling and the bread and mezes made a nest for all of these ingredients to live in.
I could tell the family took pride in delivering a quality service which focused on customer experience at an affordable price of £13.
The meal was certainly not greasy neither regretful, in fact, I very much enjoyed my Mediterranean experience and I would go again!
Out of five:
Food: Exquisite, definitely a filling lunch and I assume would be an even greater dinner.*****
Drink: My choice of tap water meant that I did not explore too much, though I have tried their Turkish tea before and I can vouch for that. ****
Decor: Clean, modern, designed well, sturdy yet traditional. *****
Staff: Polite and caring, always aim to provide the best for the customer. *****
Price: Affordable at a whopping £13! ***