THERE’S nothing like a smattering of free stuff to add a sparkle, a sprinkle of fairy dust to the end of a restaurant meal. Aahs and oohs flutter round Turkiye here as the owner is suddenly bobbing past tables with small plates of baklava crowded into his hands. For everyone: the teachers having an end of term meal by the window; the couple who have paid and are actually standing to leave when the super-sweet shreddy desserts are given to them. Aaw, that’s so nice, they say. The long table by the wall, too, filled, I’m guessing, with staff from the university. They look at the baklavas a bit blankly at first but then settle back to pick away at some of them. A gentle wave of goodwill unmistakeably settles on the room.

No free baklava for me tonight, (phew – I don’t like it), but then I’ve already had a free lahmacun – a Turkish pizza – that was suddenly and unexpectedly whisked to my table after an awkward few moments with the hot mix mezze (£11.95) and an awkward moment with my cold mix mezze (£10.95). Those went like this: the hot mezze arrived and, to be straight-up, I was a little disappointed with the humdrum nature of this dish.

Fried Turkish sausage slices; some fried cigar-shaped filos, some but not all filled with cheese, some fried cigar-shaped and rather dark falafel; lots and lots of fried halloumi. A pile of tired lettuce. It sounded better on the menu.

And wasn’t there supposed to be calamari? Off the waitress went to the kitchen to check for this before returning to say they have run out of calamari tonight but …the chef has given me extra halloumi. He certainly has. Then there was the promised olives. We went around the cold mezze served in one of those dishes that looked like a party pack of dips trying to work out where they were. Hummus? Check. Cacik yoghurt? Check. Baba ganoush, is that actually baba ganoush? Check. Patlican sosu (aubergine in tomato sauce). Check. Olives? No olives, not a one, and as nobody offers to bring any I assume they too have run out tonight.

Sigh, now I’m feeling like the inspector guy in the Fawlty Towers episode.

The cold mezze anyway? Certainly look like they were handmade in here, but did anyone in the kitchen taste them? I found them lacking. In seasoning. In flavour. In everything. I have a couple of slices of the thin, lukewarm and sadly unappetising lahmacun too before most of it heads back to the kitchen with the rest of the car crash.

An off night, I’m thinking. It happens to us all. But I didn’t come here for the mezze. I came because someone sent me pictures of a huge, blazing, charcoal grill. I haven’t seen it out front and can only assume it’s in the kitchen.

Out front, it's one of those restaurant units on Candleriggs that’s been around since they rebuilt the Merchant City. It feels a little like the decor hasn’t changed since then.

Lamb ribs at £16.95 then? At last something that’s reasonably good, slightly off the beaten track, and seasoned properly. These are bubblingly crisp, sweet dribbly fat, salted throughout and the meat itself is pretty reasonable. There’s a pile of moulded rice, a generic salad, a couple of whole chillis on the side, but the grilled meat has real flavour.

Now, 20 years ago this would probably have been an OK meal, but the whole game has changed since then and it feels dated. And pricey. On the menu it’s possible to pay £8 for a starter of halloumi and fried sliced sausage, the halloumi alone is £6. Yes, the Merchant City is expensive and hard to park in – on a patch of mud just around the corner there NCP will charge £6 for the first two hours and tenner for a minute over that. That can’t be good for the businesses here. But all the more reason to raise the game.


97/99 Candleriggs


0141 553 1577

Menu: Traditional Turkish restaurant in the heart of the Merchant City serving mezze, grilled meats and baklava. 3/5

Service: Hard to fault, pleasant and helpful and happy to go in search of various missing ingredients. Free baklavas all round. 4/5

Atmosphere: It’s on Candleriggs, across from City Hall, one of the more atmospheric parts of town. Big windows but feels a bit dated. 3/5

Price: Again the Merchant City isn’t cheap and neither is any of this, too. Saltily priced for me. 2/5

Food: Maybe they were having an off night but the mixed mezze both hot and cold were dreary and disappointing, the grilled lamb ribs better. 5/10