‘I tried a £21 kebab at an award-winning restaurant – and it was worth every penny’

The high street of a traditional mill town may not be where you most expect an award-winning fine dining restaurant but over the years, Istanblue has won many admirers and is Royton’s best rated restaurant on TripAdvisor.

Although locals have long raved about the eatery, it has now gained national recognition at a glitzy awards bash in London.

At the tenth annual British Kebab Awards on Tuesday (March 1) Istanblue pipped 10 other restaurants to take the ‘fine dining’ crown and became Greater Manchester’s sole winner of the evening.

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The following day, I decided to head there to see if it is worth the hype.

With large white lettering on a wooden-paneled facade, Istanblue stands out as you drive down Rochdale Road and through Royton town centre.

After taking advantage of the free parking at the Precinct, I fought off the wind and rain and made the short walk to the restaurant.

Istanblue’s wooden front and large white letters help it to stand out

Arriving shortly after it opened at 2pm, I was promptly greeted and given the option of where I would like to sit.

As I walked to my table, my eyes were pulled around the room to different aspects of the striking decor – from the orange chairs to a chandelier made of wine glasses and ropes suspended from the ceiling.

My server told me that food may take around half an hour as the team had just got back from the previous evening’s celebrations.

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I have apologized and asked if I would like a cold starter while I waited, so I opted for the roasted pepper hummus.

As I waited, I noticed the music playing over the speakers, which seemed to switch seamlessly from Turkish and Mediterranean songs to the likes of Wild World by Cat Stevens.

Inside Istanblue Royton
The decor caught my eye

It wasn’t long at all before my starter was with me. The portion of hummus was very generous and there was plenty of soft bread for dipping.

There were plenty of chilli flakes in the hummus so I thought it may hit me in the back of my throat but the kick of spice was subtle and not overpowering at all, really allowing the delicious flavor of the pepper hummus to shine through.

Istanblue’s main menu features all sorts of grill dishes, pizzas, steaks, and even casseroles.

Trying to stay authentic, I opted for the Iskender – spit-roasted sirloin steak doner served on warm Lavash bread, dressed in a warm tomato sauce and topped with yoghurt.

The most I’ve ever spent on a kebab is probably about £8 and this was priced at £20.95, so I was expecting pretty special things.

The roasted pepper hummus starter at Istanblue
The roasted pepper hummus starter at Istanblue

After around 15 minutes, the server brought my dish out under a cloche, along with garlic and chilli dips.

He lifted the lid and the aroma wafted towards my nostrils but the most impressive bit was just how much steak was hidden underneath the tomatoey sauce. A chargrilled green chilli and tomato were placed on top, along with two big blobs of yoghurt.

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The sauce was rich with a little bit of heat behind it, while the steak was melt-in-the-mouth and absolutely gorgeous. Underneath, the Lavash bread was so soft and seemed incredibly fresh.

When mixed with the yoghurt, the mouthfuls became more creamy and indulgent and the option of the dips gave it even more dimensions.

Although I was very full about three quarters of the way through, it was just too good to leave any and I kept going until I’d polished it off.

My server offered me dessert and my head won out over my heart as I politely declined and asked for the bill.

Despite being in and out within the space of an hour, the starter was complimentary, which I thought showed a touch of class.

So the whole meal, including a very large glass of lemonade, came to £23.85.

Gifting me the starter was a touch of class
Gifting me the starter was a touch of class

Although having initial reservations about paying £21 for a kebab, my meal was so much more than that and I felt that it was worth every penny.

So good, in fact, that I may have to make the 40 mile round trip again in the future – only this time with family or friends so they can see how great it is.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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