MAXINE GORDON wonders if a return trip to a Turkish restaurant will still be full of eastern promise

MANY moons have passed since I first visited the Turkish restaurant Kapadokya in George Hudson Street.

I visited shortly after it opened in 2003, with my mother. Looking back at the review that appeared in The Press, we had a great meal.

So how would things fare, some 16 years later?

The eating out scene in York is fluid and fiercely competitive. So Kapadokya must be doing plenty of things right to still be going after all this time.

We arrived on Saturday evening, securing a table for three for 7pm.

The place was about half full and we quickly settled into our table and ordered a drink each while we studied the menu.

That in itself was quite a task with 20 starters to choose from – a mix of hot and cold options.

My daughter and I plumped for a plate of mucver (£4.95), billed as "pan-fried zucchini pancakes served with garlic yoghurt sauce and garnish" and sigara borek (£5.50) – fried rolls of filo pastry stuffed with minced lamb, parsley, and spices. My husband went for pan fried crevettes (£6.50): prawns cooked in spicy tomato sauce, served with bread.

The prawns won praise for being succulent and tasty in a nicely tangy and gently spiced, thick sauce.

Also good were the filo pastry rolls. They looked like long cigars, but were more akin to a skinny spring roll, and I loved the meaty lamb filling which went perfectly with the cool, minted yoghurt dip.

Our daughter's courgette pancakes were a disappointment though. Soft and soggy rather than crisp and firm, they were more mush than moreish.

Happily, her main course made up for it: imam bayildi (£13.50), a yummy concoction of peppers, onions, tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, baked in half an aubergine and served with rice. Everything had been slow cooked in the oven with all the ingredients melting into each other to create a delicious dish.

Our main courses were not such a success. We each chose from the specials selection.The lamb kousha sounded inviting enough: slow oven-cooked pieces of meat in a rich, herby gravy, served with roast potatoes, carrots and green beans (£16.95). The reality was something else: the meat tough and dry, the gravy thick and lacking in flavour, the veggies as boring as they come, with boiled spuds rather than the advertised roasted. Nick left half of it.

I chose the house special – and was expecting great things with it being the most expensive dish on the menu at £18.95. The Kapadokya special is apparently based on a 500-year-old recipe for Sultans and contains cubes of chicken cooked with almonds, apricots, peppers and raisins with cinnamon, honey and lemon, served with rice.

First impressions were a let down: the dish looked like someone had upended it from a Chinese ready meal. Small pieces of chicken sat with a few chunks of red and green pepper, all upon in a sticky honey goo. The rice was just as unappetising: a mound of brown grains served on a side dish – and it was lukewarm.

Moreover, the chicken was overcooked and the sauce was little more than a pool of sticky honey. I have a sweet tooth, but this would have made Willy Wonka wince. When I pointed this out, the waiter whisked it away and returned a few moments later with a version promising to be "less sweet". It wasn't.

But our waiters weren't done in trying to make amends. Without showing me the menu again, they came back with a third dish – the very un-Turkish sounding chicken saute (£13.50), which was some chicken pieces and mushrooms in a tomato and cream sauce.

It was another uninspiring plate of food, and my heart was starting to sink at the prospect of having to give them my honest feedback. "How is it?" asked our attentive waiter. As a policy, I always give an honest answer to this question. Firstly a good restaurant, like any business, should welcome fair criticism.

Secondly, although we are under cover as eating out reviewers, I believe we shouldn't put in a review anything we wouldn't say in person during the meal. This also affords the restaurant a chance to put things right.

So I told the waiter that it was OK, not the best thing I'd ever eaten, not the worst.

By this time, my dining partners had polished off their desserts, a sticky baklava and a sinful chocolate brownie, which both scored highly.

For the three of us, including drinks, the bill worked out at £30 a head – I was dismayed to see they charged me for the special I didn't eat.

Interestingly, back at the office, I re-read my original review of 2003 and discovered I'd had the same Kapadokya special back then, but it must have different because I loved it and commented on it being "fit for a Turkish king. The chicken and fruits, combined with honey and lemon, were sweet without being cloying, and struck the exact balance between tangy and savoury".

Sadly, 16 years later, the dish based on a five-centuries-old recipe was more of a Turkish disappointment than a Turkish delight.

Kapadokya, 4 George Hudson St, York YO1 6LP

T: 01904 625250


Food: Hit and miss 2.5/5

Service: Attentive 4/5

Value: Disappointing 2/5

Ambience: OK 3/5

All reviews are independent and paid for by The Press