I don’t routinely go in for “best I’ve ever had” type declarations, but I will make an exception.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to a first night gathering at Tavan when it opened in October, replacing Mai Thai which closed a couple of months earlier.
We shared a few very enjoyable typically Turkish meze dishes and assorted charcoal grilled meats - including lamb chops. And I left absolutely smitten with the latter in particular.
So it was only a matter of when, and not if, I returned unannounced.
The very “Thai” look of the restaurant, which also serves the Pearl hotel on Lincoln Road, has disappeared . It now has attractive wooden panelling, rugs and other artefacts on the walls and lantern-style lighting - the highlight of which is a huge “chandelier” above the centrepiece bar.
Putting the opening night visit aside I had high hopes in any case. Tavan is a sister restaurant for the excellent Zada, which caught the eye of the Michelin inspectors last year and has impressed me on rccent visits.
Now the Stamford restaurant is small, and its compact setting makes for a great atmosphere.
Tavan - which is much more spacious - didn’t match that, but the food certainly stood up very well in comparison. And that is quite a compliment given it has only been open six or seven weeks when I popped in.
The menu offerings - even the printed menu - are similar, but Tavan boasts some Moroccan tagines too.
It was early and quite quiet when I dined, although the background music - Turkish I would guess - and the general chatter around us created a mood.
The service was very good - prompt, friendly and helpful - so it wasn’t long before we were settled and ready to order - in my case a quick check to make sure lamb chops were on the menu!
We shared a hot and cold mixed meze (£14.95 and nicely presented) which exhausted my knowledge of Turkish starter dishes and contained all of my personal favourites plus a couple more (8 in all).
The charcoal grilled goats cheese (hellim) and the hummus (v) were good, the cacik - yoghurt with cucumber, mint and garlic, was delightful, as was the zaalouk, a mixture of smoked aubergine with yoghurt, tahini, garlic and olive oil.
Even the briouats - the filo pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley - and the crisp falafel punched above their weight.
Donna’s charcoal grilled skewered marinated chicken cubes (pilici shish, £10.50) was nicely done, plentiful, and came with a lovely rice portion and beautiful fresh tasting salad - the tomato and cucumber had a great taste.
And saving the best until last, the lamb cutlets (served with the above, £14.95) were magnificent. Marinated so the meat was soft and juicy they (five of them) just had enough crispiness from the charcoal to turn one of my favourite cuts of meat into heaven on a plate.
I make no apologies for picking them up and gnawing them to the bone.
Brad Barnes dines at Tavan, 77 Lincoln Road, Peterborough www.tavan.co.uk
Brad’s rating: 9