Ever since it opened its doors in 2017 as Zorba’s Meze Grill serving Turkish and Mediterranean food, this former café has quickly established itself as one of Tunbridge Wells’ most successful restaurants. Owned by Sedat Zorba, it has occupied its Upper Grosvenor Road premises since 2009 but only since it opened up a fully fledged eatery has it become one of the area’s go-to dining destinations. People clearly love its selection of perfectly grilled meats, delicious platters of tempting Mediterranean meze treats and relaxed atmosphere. Zorba’s actually doubled in size last year when it took over the shop next door.
The décor here is smart and considered – think mango wood tables and leather banquettes set against a backdrop of low-level lighting, exposed brick walls, and hammered metal and mirrored wall hangings. Zorba’s open plan kitchen – which allows you to see all the restaurant’s food being prepared and cooked – acts as another key and enjoyable visual element.
We were quickly presented our menus, which boast a huge array of dishes to choose from so while we pondered our choices we ordered an aperitif. My husband went for a bottle of Turkey’s most popular beer, Efes, an easy to drink, sweet, malty pilsner with hits of aromatic spice that linger on the tastebuds (£3.50). I decided to try a glass of Turkish white wine. There are three to choose from – Cankaya Kavaklidere, a popular citrus offering; Misket Kavaklidere, which boasts stone fruit aromas and tropical notes; and DLC Sultaniye, an aromatic, crisp and fruity little number. I chose the Misket (£5.75) and was impressed by its complexity and depth. The bottle of water placed on our table was infused with mint leaves and lemon – a nice touch to elevate it from a boring old jug of tap water.
Under starters orders
To say the menu at Zorba’s is comprehensive is an understatement. There’s dish after dish of tempting Turkish delights to fire up your appetite. As well as classic offerings such as mixed olives, calamari and hummus and taramasalata dips with warm pitta bread, there are other more adventurous items to savour for your starter. You could opt for soslu patlican – nuggets of deep fried aubergine served with finely sliced and fried peppers and onions coated in a rich tomato sauce and baked in the oven (£4.95) – or how about arnavut cigeri – a small plate of sautéed lamb’s liver served with onions and parsley? Due to the extensive choice we decided upon a deal which gives you a selection of five mixed meze for £13.95. Our waiter informed us the portions were slightly smaller than a normal starter size but that doesn’t matter as when the colourful platter arrived it’s very generous and could easily feed three to four people.
The main event
After feasting on such a delectable selection of mini meze which included babaganoush, a smoky aubergine purée infused with lemon, garlic and olive, and dolma vine leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts and caramelised onions, it was time to whittle our main course choices down. I eventually decided on the marinated and chargrilled chicken kofte served on a bed of bread and topped with tomato sauce and drizzled yoghurt (£13.95) while my husband went for the lamb shish cooked on Zorba’s Mangal grill. The meat was perfectly flavoured, tender and chargrilled beautifully. Each dish was accompanied by rice and a small salad but if you’re particularly hungry you can always order extra sides.
It’s important to note that you’ll eat very well here if you’re vegetarian: homemade falafels, hellim cheese and aubergine kebabs and veggie mussaka are just a few of the meat-free plates
To be honest you won’t necessary need a dessert after dining so well at Zorba’s but if you do fancy a pud then I’d highly recommend the baklava pastry trio. This sweet and sticky traditional Turkish confection is served with ice cream and looks as good as it tastes thanks to its sprinkling of ground pistachio nuts and pomegranate jewels. We enjoyed it with a small cup of strong Turkish coffee that pretty much set me up for the rest of the week!
With such a variety of dishes to savour here for all types of tastebuds, not to mention an enticing loyalty scheme which gives diners money off their bills on selected days of the week, I feel Zorba’s will soon become a family favourite.