Review: Alaz, Sudbury: “Take an empty stomach with you”
- Credit: Archant
We tried out Sudbury’s newest restaurant.
Going to a new restaurant just six days after it’s opened was always going to be risky – but I’d already heard good things about Alaz and couldn’t resist popping along.
Sat right in front of the grill, the sizzle of meat on charcoal was an irresistible soundtrack to our meal, which began with a 10 to 15 minute deliberation over the menu. Thankfully, with a bit of steering from the staff, we got there in the end and when the dishes of hot and cold meze arrived, with two huge olive wood baskets of pide bread, we were chomping at the bit to get stuck in.
Of course, we had to try the hummus. For me, it could have done with a squeeze of lemon juice, but it was ultimately a good, smooth, creamy dip that had been balanced well with tahini which can sometimes be bitter. Beside it was a bowl of pasha (similar to one of my favourite Turkish meze, muhammarah). The salmon pink whipped concoction of walnuts, peppers, pomegranate molasses and feta was fresh and not cloying in the slightest, with a fragrant sweetness that worked wonders with a plate of grilled garlicky Turkish sausage and halloumi.
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A meze of prawns came to the table in a bubbling cauldron (ok cast iron dish) of garlic butter and were just-cooked to succulence.
To follow was a mixed grill of lamb and chicken shish, adana kofte, chicken wings, lamb ribs and Turkish meatballs, served with a choice of salad, loads of pide bread and bulghur ‘rice’.
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Where to start? There was so much meat. Some of the lamb shish was a little over, but the mastery of the seasoning and marinating was undeniable. A highlight was the meaty lamb ribs, whose sweet crispy fat made for unctuous nibbling. The bulghur rice was the best I’ve had in a Turkish restaurant in the east, combining bulghur, vermicelli, tomatoes, onions, aubergine and herbs. It certainly wasn’t bland. And we all thought the gavurdagi salatasi salad (a chopped salad dressed with walnuts, lemon and pomegranate molasses) was fantastic – sweet, sharp, salty, savoury, juicy- what more could you need with a tonne of meat? I rarely choose salad in a restaurant but would specifically order this again.
The kuzu sis of marinated lamb skewer was, as the main grilled dish, a little over on the cooking, but tasted excellent- again, that marinade had got deep into the meat.
And my main course of alti ezmeli was a showstopper. Like the prawns, it came bubbling away to the table, this time in a clay dish. Unfortunately the bread that was meant to be under the minced lamb skewer and spicy crushed tomato sauce was absent. They brought some out separately but this is the kind of plate where you eat the meat, secretly anticipating getting to the juice/sauce sopped bread underneath. I popped a few cubes of bread in the dish myself and they were well worth waiting for after I’d tackled the behemoth kebab (which I couldn’t finish).
We didn’t really have room for dessert but they’re all homemade which is unusual so we had a crack at a couple – both served with locally made vanilla ice cream. The chocolate fondant was just the right size after such a gargantuan meal. Despite a rich chocolate flavour coming through, it lacked that gooey melting middle and could have done with a touch less cooking.
But I wish I could have finished the plate of baklava which were sensational. Buttery and golden, the bite-sized pieces were generous with pistachio nuts and the syrup wasn’t too sucrose-sweet. If my napkin wasn’t so mucky from the mains, I would have wrapped the last piece up to take home!
A very extensive list with decent beers, plenty of premium brand soft drinks and even cocktails and mocktails. We had a glass of Turkish Ephesus red and white. Turkish wine, I think, is always very drinkable, having a ripe softness – especially when it comes to reds, which tend to veer towards the plummy and ripe, rather than being heavy on tannins and oak. Both glasses were juicy and rounded - reasonably priced too.
I always say its service that makes you remember a place. If it’s mediocre to OK you’re unlikely to go back, but great service can rescue a so-so meal and have you going back time and time again.
The service at Alaz was grand. A proper welcome as we came in the door. We hadn’t booked a table but weren’t made to feel like criminals for that (because honestly some restaurants do get stroppy) and were quickly shown to our seats. Kudos to the young server who, despite the place being open for less than a week, had got pronunciation of all the dishes spot-on. Both he and the owner offered recommendations when we were stumped, and the owner popped over to see if liked his suggestions. A dropped fork was replaced seconds after it hit the floor. And we thought it was honest of our server to tell us the mixed grill came with two mezze, so we could have those as starters instead to save money. Everyone who left the restaurant shook the staff’s hands thanking them for a good evening – including us.
Last used as an Indian restaurant, the building was previously a historic hotel and much of the character of inside has been retained – low ceilings, brick and beam – complemented by cheery Turkish tiling and jewel-like lanterns. The chairs were especially comfy.
Not the most ‘wow’ toilets I’ve ever been in. They’re very basic but clean and fresh which is the most important thing. My only gripe was the fact they had a towel instead of paper towels or a hand dryer.
There’s a smallish car park at the back but if you blink you’ll miss the sign to get to it. Just take the first left beside the building and you’re there. It’s quite bumpy and gravelly so any wheelchair users or those with difficulty walking on uneven ground, should get dropped off to the pavement first.
There are wheelchair ramps inside and out.
Two hot meat mezze with lots of bread, three glasses of wine, two soft drinks, a huge meat platter with sides, two lamb dishes and two desserts came in at just shy of £105. For the sheer amount of food felt was value for money.
The meat platter and all its accompaniments. A proper meat feast.
If you like big portions, big flavours this is the place for you. We’ve already planned a return visit.