A TURKISH restaurant in Southampton has been shortlisted to become the Best Middle Eastern restaurant in the UK.

Ottoman Kitchen, based on High Street, was unknowingly visited by two secret judges who tasted their food.

The judges explained who they were at the end of the meal and according to Co-owner Niyazi Kaya, they said it was the "one of the best Turkish meals" they have eaten.

It will now be going up against five other restaurants who are based in London in a bid to win the category crown at the 2019 Asian Curry Awards.

The restaurant is on the site of the former Ferryman & Firkin pub which was not in use for many years.

But the venue then underwent a six-month refurbishment to create the now Turkish 100-seat restaurant which has been open since June.

Other restaurants nominated for the award include The Palomar, Kateh, Devran and Sofra.

Owner Ali Fistikci said: “For the awards two judges came along secretly to taste the food, service and consistency and they draw up a short list from there. They visit hundreds of restaurants around the UK so to make the shortlist among all of those makes us so proud. Looking at the other restaurants nominated it is a real honour to be amongst these. Now we go through to the grand final held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London in November.”

Co-owner Niyazi Kaya added: “We had no idea the judges were coming. At the end of their meal they announced themselves and said it was one the best Turkish meals they’d ever had and we got confirmation in the post this week we were shortlisted. They particularly liked our Lamb Iskander dish.

"Our chefs all come from top London restaurants and they’ve worked really hard to get our food to the level it is, they were really pleased. There can’t be many Southampton restaurants that have been nominated for a national restaurant award, so getting shortlisted itself is a great achievement. Hopefully we can win this award and give Southampton officially the best middle Eastern restaurant in the UK.”

To celebrate their nomination, Ottoman Kitchen is now offering a banquet three-course menu for groups of four to taste a variety of dishes on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout October.

The awards ceremony takes place at Grosvenor House, London, on November 17.