Emma Clegg doesn’t need to fight any dragons to enjoy the delicacies of Turkey and Greece at this newly opened restaurant in Walcot Street.
No 88 Walcot Street has a marked architectural presence. This imposing Grade II listed limestone ashlar building dating from 1904 was built to serve the nearby church of St Michael. Indeed within the tall arched recess above the door is a statue of St Michael slaying the dragon. It’s a grand, late Victorian British entranceway charged by biblical references and coloured Art Nouveau glass. The interior has the same generous impact with its large windows, chandeliers and the wooden vaulted roof that swoops above you.
Until recently this was the home of Aqua (Italian) restaurant, but now it has been taken on by new owners and named Pomegranate, specialising in the vibrant flavours of the Mediterranean, in particular the food of Turkey and Greece. Perhaps this is a cultural jump too far, but appropriately Saint Michael was an archangel, with the word coming from the Greek words arche (prince) and angelos (messenger).
Historical strands established, we took our place on the plumply upholstered aquamarine banquettes that run along the length of the walls, each side of the altar-like illuminated grand bar on the far wall. The menu delivers no surprises in content – think hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, grilled halloumi, melitzano to start, with a bowl of plump Kalamata olives – and yet the flavours are superb, the presentation so attractive and the eating experience sublime. Our choices, Falafel with Chickpea Fritters on a bed of hummus, and Borek, filo pastry filled with Anatolian feta cheese, spinach and sun-dried tomato and fig concasse were greedily shared, both served with the most delicious red cabbage, cucumber and pomegranate salad glistening with dressing. The option was there to opt for a Cold Meze Platter between two, with hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, melitzana and olives. (That’s for next time.)
Mains for us brought Chicken Shish (hard to say at speed) with chunks of roasted oily peppers, tomatoes and onions served with salad and rice, and Lamb Moussaka with potatoes, aubergines and courgette, served with salad. The Shish was delightful, full of moisture and flavour, and the spiced meat, delicate texture of eggplant and the creamy béchamel of the moussaka created a rich tasting experience. Other options included Grilled Halloumi, Lamb Kofte and Vegan Moussaka (vegan is well catered for here).
The three dessert options offered Baileys Tiramisu with Amaretto, mascarpone and coffee; Baklava (a traditional recipe from south east Turkey, one of the most popular sweet pastries of Ottoman cuisine, the recipe said to date right back to the Assyrians in the 8th century BC); and Nedimos (baked butternut squash with honey syrup with tahini and walnut). We chose the first two, the tiramisu a creamy boozy spoon-scooping pleasure ride and the baklava (filo pastry, pistachio, honey sauce) combined the soft honey-flavoured strings of pastry with the melting pools of ice cream.
The food at Pomegranate is authentic, well-curated and served with bundles of flavour, and the prices are highly accessible (two courses £15.95 and three £18.95). There is also a dining room downstairs that can be used for large parties. I’d say that all the elements – the architecture, the food, the friendly service, and the prices – are guaranteed to take the breath away – even of St Michael’s dragon.
This meal for two at Pomegranate, without drinks, totalled £41.40. Pomegranate is open for lunch Monday to Saturday 12pm–2.30pm and dinner Monday to Thursday 5.30pm–8.30