AS Turkish restaurant boss Bekir Yirtar says, he doesn’t need to redecorate his kebab houses – he just sticks another batch of customers’ comment cards on the wall.
It’s a sort of culinary equivalent of Radio Sheffield’s famous Praise or Grumble spot for football although there is more of the former than the latter. Bekir says he doesn’t vet them but he’d be mad to put up one which read “My kebab was a bit gristly last night pal.”
But wait, we’ve read through all the ‘fantastics’ and the ‘greats’ and found one, to the right of the photo of the boss with snooker’s Ronnie ‘Great Kebabs’ O’Sullivan, which has a bit of a grouch.
“Every time I come there is never kadayif left for dessert. I get depressed and have to tell myself if there is a dark night there is a bright day. If there isn’t any next time I am going to jump off a bridge.”
So we make a mental note to order it later. But will it be on?
We’re at the bigger and newer of the two places called Zeugma on Sheffield’s London Road. First there was Zeugma opened in 2004 and then Zeugma Iki (2) came along in 2008.
Iki is Turkish for two but Bekir likes to let on that it could very well stand for International Kebab Institute.
The place is named after a town in Turkey founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great. The Romans took over and all went well until the Persians invaded in 253 AD and set it on fire, turning it into one giant kebab.
I learned this from the restaurants’ website, which has films showing the city and the chefs in action.
The camera lingers so long over temptingly shaped pieces of meat sizzling over charcoal from every conceivable angle it’s almost kebab porn but it does whet your appetite.
As both restaurants have identical menus it’s a matter of choice which you choose. Zeugma is smaller, with an open kitchen and scores highly for food theatre. Iki is bigger with two rooms although the kitchen is set back and there’s not so much sizzle factor.
Whichever one, you’ll be in good company because the Zeugmas seem to be the choice of champions. As well as O’Sullivan other big name customers include Jessica Ennis and boxer Tim Witherspoon, who seems to have eaten in almost every local restaurant.
There’s the usual medley of mezze for starters but I begin with the Albanian liver and onions (4.95), cubed lambs liver on a bed of lettuce. What makes this dish are the cooking juices, rich and salty which mingle with the salad, plus the combination of onions, some fried and some raw as garnish.
Our other starter, Karidesli Borek (£4.95), was just as good. There were four cigar-shaped pastry parcels filled generously with the prawns, onion and garlic, which had been deep-fried.
You don’t have to have a kebab here but it would be daft not to if you’re reviewing the place. With so many to choose from I go for the mixed grill (£14.95) because it gives me a taste of three or four dishes.
The best is the Adana, flat strips of finely minced lamb with herbs, and there’s chicken shish and a lamb chop. The meat is good and well flavoured – I’m told Zeugma does all its own butchery - and there’s plenty on the plate. It is laid out on strips of bread with rice and salad so it’s a struggle to finish.
If you do put the kibosh on the kebabs there is a range of pides, or Turkish pizzas, or, like my wife, you can go veggie with the classic Imam Bayildi, which means ‘the priest fainted,’ and so did I at the price.
Now £11 for an aubergine is a bit stiff and if those Third Century Persians had still been around I’d have called them in to give Zeugma another good going over.
We didn’t start well as it arrived cold. They had forgotten to re-heat it. Now this is classically served at room temperature but not in Sheffield on a chilly night.
This is a roasted aubergine stuffed with vegetables in a tomato sauce and the skill comes in the spicing, which was pretty nifty.
Kadayif was once again off for dessert but rather than have us jump off a bridge our waitress suggested the nearest thing, kunefe (£4.50), which is crunchy, shredded noodles sandwiching mozzarella cheese in a honey syrup. Gorgeous.
With drinks we paid £47.25 for food. Well worth a visit.