KAI Deansgate, 82-84 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2ER – Visit Now
First impressions are good. It’s a pared-down, nicely-elegant space, not too big or cluttered, with an impressive open kitchen at the far corner, dispersing eye-rollingly delicious barbecued-meat aromas. The staff are upbeat and cheerful, keen to recommend dishes and joke around with customers (at one point I ask the manager where the gents is and he tells me there isn’t one, leaving me stuttering “B-b-but, health and safety?” before laughing and pointing to the well-signposted bathroom. Cheeky.)
We begin with the cold mezze, boasting a hearty array of well-flavoured and impressively fresh dishes: olives, hummus, cacik, babaganush, salad and more, nicely segmented with a thickly sliced pickle. The babaganush is particularly impressive, a smoky richly-flavoured take on the aubergine-based classic. This is paired with a piping-hot pita bread, speckled with black onion seeds, perfect for mopping up every last bit of the dips and sauces. Which we do, greedily.
The hot mezze raises the bar, with some fresh-from-the-grill seared haloumi, a bowl of creamy garlic mushrooms – which had slightly too much sauce, if we’re being pick, chunky curled-up prawns in a hot sauce and other top-drawer sundries, but the stand-out item is the kofte – hefty lumps of lamb meat, wonderfully seasoned, juicy and moreish. It’s these you’ll return for again and again.
Our bellies are aching like the banks of the river Euphrates in flood season
Then it’s time for the Turkish pizza, otherwise known as pide – another high quality dish, dotted with crisped lamb and thick blobs of stringy cheese, in a nicely thick boat-style curled-up dough base.
By this point, our bellies are aching like the banks of the river Euphrates in flood season. But wait – there’s more. And this time it’s a mighty platter of meat, amazing delicious soft hunks of chicken, minced lamb kebab, lamb chops, all wonderful, and teamed with shredded cabbage, carrot and red onions, with a utilitarian mound of rice. Again, it’s a fantastic serving and while you probably wouldn’t order the entire lot, not unless you had a bottomless stomach, it’s worth a few repeat journeys to try out the full menu.
Kai is a superb addition to Deansgate’s growing line-up of restaurants. The food is top-quality, authentic and there’s a real buzz to the place, with an upbeat vibrant atmosphere that manages to coax clued-in locals even before the place has opened properly.