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Seren, Cowbridge Road, Cardiff

September 16, 2011 1 comment

Words by James McLaren

Want nice-sized portions of well-cooked eastern Mediterranean nosh for sensible prices? You couldn’t do much better than Seren on Cardiff’s Cowbridge Road.

I’ve been here before, when it operated as Bosphorus, but as Seren it’s retained its Turkish slant, and I was drawn by its meat-heavy but exotic menu, with lots of spices, yoghurt and tomatoes appearing in the dishes. Forgoing starters, we were nevertheless presented with a couple of dainty courgette and cheese fried patties with cucumber, tomato and yoghurt as an appetiser.

IskenderGiven the Turkish slant to Seren, we thought it was important to choose Turkish booze to go alongside the food. I don’t remember the names, but the house red and white wines both come from Turkey and are worth investigating. The white is a fresh, light number with a really appealing but unusual tang of olives alongside a citrus flavour, while the red was woody and spicy with a cherry and blackberry fruitiness. I also had a glass of Turkish lager which, while nothing special, was perfectly fine.

KarniyarikI deliberated over the delicious-looking seafood and grill dishes (marinated, whole, char-grilled sea bass, for example, or pieces of monkfish tail steamed with Seren special pear and honey sauce and flavoured with brandy) before plumping for one of the main dishes: Iskender: cubes of lamb on bread smothered with tomato sauce, drizzled with butter and served with yoghurt. My partner had the Karniyarik: aubergine filled with minced lamb, onion, pepper, tomato and herbs. It’s oven-baked and usually served with mozzarella but a dairy intolerance necessitated an absence of the cheese. Not a problem, as Seren cook everything fresh to order.

Both dishes went down very well, with my lamb tender and juicy in the rich tomato sauce. The sourness of the yoghurt complemented with sweetness of the meat and tomatoes, as is typical with cuisine from the Mediterranean. I did manage to burn my tongue on the bread, which I then exacerbated by chewing on the chilli which came atop the dish, but a mouthful of yoghurt sorted that out. The Karniyarak was equally appreciated: apparently ungreasy, the aubergine was soft and flavoursome, the herbed meat delicious. I should know, I tried a big mouthful.

Thankfully the portions weren’t huge, so puddings were chosen. I went for Kayisi: sun-dried apricot cooked in honey syrup with ice cream. It was top. Soft, plump and juicy fruit swimming in an unctuous sauce cut with icy oral refreshment. My partner went for baklava, a classic of the area. Four pieces of the filo and pistachio cakes exploding with honey syrup and served with cream and a drizzle of a dark fruit sauce. As good a portion of baklava as I think either of us have tasted.

Turkish coffeeCoffees finished up (one filter, and one a classic Turkish coffee, with a dusty, thick texture and served with amaretto liqueur). Replete, we had spent £46.50 including drinks which represents good value in an area in which restaurant choice is something of a lottery.

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