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On a fine day you’ll spot customers at Zengi’s pavement tables puffing on shisha pipes and sending plumes of perfumed smoke up in the air. It helps mask the far less appealing smog from Commercial Street’s heavy traffic, the roar of which you can still hear inside the restaurant. On the informal ground floor, chefs are busy grilling meat over charcoal and pulling freshly baked flatbread from the pizza oven. For a quieter time, head to the basement to sit at intimate booths tucked under dimly lit alcoves. The menu is predominantly Iraqi, but features Turkish, Persian and Lebanese influences, bringing together the best dishes from each region. For a top meze selection, choose the fresh salads (a towering portion of zingy tabouleh was stuffed with parsley) and dips including a chunky houmous and smoky aubergine moutabal. Mains are consistently excellent: the Zengi mixed grill provides a taste of gently marinated chicken, melt-in-the-mouth lamb pieces and thick, lean köfte. Our khema (a dense stew of lentils and minced lamb) was authentic, and the turkish pizzas light, packed with meat and full of flavour. Every bit as tasty – and excellent value too – are the falafel and the grilled meat sandwiches.
44 Commercial Street
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