Billed as serving 'traditional Turkish food', Kazan Kitchen has created a miniature empire on Wilton Street in Pimlico. On one side Kazan occupies a small corner café/restaurant, whilst on the other side of the road is a more severe and austere fine dining experience. Strangely, they both have the same menu.
The first thing that struck me as I pushed open the door was the friendliness of the waitresses and the warmth exuded by the café. We had chosen the least pretentious looking option, the café, but I was still taken by surprise that we had managed to secure a table so quickly on a busy Thursday night.
Kazan could certainly list 'a jolly atmosphere' among its list of ample attractions. The room was packed with shrieks of laughter and snatches of happy conversation could be heard above the clinking of crockery and cutlery. Despite the snow outside, couples picked from their mezze plates and drank draughts of chilled beer. The Mediterranean attitude predominated despite the cold snap, and the restaurant felt familial and cosy.
The food was the same: familial and cosy. The hummus, in my opinion the centrepiece of any Middle Eastern vegetarian meal, lacked any sort of flavour, but the falafel was exceptional; crunchy and moist simultaneously, served with a smile as wide as the plate they came on. My mother raved for a good five minutes about the goat's cheese borek (crispy filo pastry parcels filled with tangy cheese) and the smoky baba ganoush, rich and creamy aubergines infused with olive oil and lemon. For a woman of few words, this must have meant that she was wholeheartedly enjoying in. A pile of flatbreads came with the mezze selection, which was perfect for wiping the hummus leftovers and for wrapping around the falafel.
But it was the atmosphere that made this place an entertaining night out. The tables were simple, scrubbed down pine, and the chairs upright and basic. The dining crowd were happy, their faces lit by flickering candle light and the waitresses' grins felt genuine. And with the mezze coming in at around a fiver each, I felt that Kazan had been a fine choice for dining on a budget. We were all stuffed by the end of the meal: the menu had provided us with ample choice, large enough portions and a selection to smile about.
Kazan Restaurant, across the road, is a more serious proposition for more serious diners. A work night out there was well waitressed and the staff were accommodating and helpful for food allergies.
But as a Pimlico local, my advice to you is ignore the slightly higher prices across the road, and enjoy the café atmosphere instead. Inject some Mediterranean sunshine into these cold winter evenings!
Including drinks, the bill came to £38 for four at Kazan Café.