Kebab Kitchen

As a Turkish person, I feel Kebab Kitchen is a good place to start!

Kebab Kitchen made its debut in The StockMKT. It is formed by two chefs: James Ramsden and Oliver Thring. Apparently the duo decided to make the best doner kebabs in London. Personally, I’d like to thank them for this, as Doner is basically a drunk person’s food (including me) in this city. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, knowing that I’ll have a Doner on my way back home has started to be my main one of my major motivations to go out and get hammered have a few drinks with friends. But surely, when compared to ones in their homeland, doners in the UK are so low on quality, and deserve to be prepared better. Anyways, after they decided to make the best, they made their way to Turkey, and ate lots of kebabs. In Turkey, many cities has their own cuisines, and Antep is (almost) a religion for many foodies, so it was exciting to see they have made their way down there. The results of Turkey trip was apparent when I read that they have decided to include ingredients such as smoked yoghurt, pomegranate, sumac and parsley.

I like to do research about food that I encounter often, so before continuing James and Oli’s version, here is doner in a nutshell: It was invented in 1850s in Bursa, Turkey (the very same restaurant still operates! ), when a guy called İskender Efendi put boneless pieces of meat on top of each other, and cooked them by rotating in front of a charcoal stack, hence the name döner (Turkish for “Rotates / Turns”). Originally doner used to be made with lamb. In years it has changed: now almost all doners in Turkey are made from minced veal meat. There are very few places that aspire to make authentic doner by cooking pieces of meat with charcoal, but they include at most 30% lamb meat. Londoners are lucky in this manner, as it is always made with lamb here. Also, as I have once pictured in one of my doner posts of my old blog, it is almost always served with just tomatoes, onion, sumac and pepper – nothing else. A presentation that I always prefer, provided that the meat is of high quality.

So, right after a pint at the office on a Friday afternoon, I made my way to Borough.

Some notable street food vendors where there: Pizza Pilgrims, Big Apple Hot Dogs and Egg Boss. The newbie Pom Pom Takoyaki too, which I had the chance to taste in Lonely Plane Street Food Festival.

I made my way directly to Kebab Kitchen.

James and Oliver were quite busy and stressed but always smiling, you like the guys from the first second. Apparently none of the doners were ready, and they were serving chicken thighs which they were cooking in Pizza Pilgrims’ mobile oven.

Oliver told me to come back in 15 minutes, and I spent that time waking around and seeing what is there. After 15 mins, I made my way back and waited for 30 minutes more, which is totally fine! This is their first day and I am so motivated to have these posh doners so that I could have waited much longer! James starts cutting the meat: (btw, why use half size blade?)

It is good to see they have added (probably tail) fat on top, which is a traditional thing to do. With heat, this fat drips over the meat, obviously making it much tastier. The meat is not minced, which is much better to keep the juice in, and making sure nothing nasty is in the doner. Anyways, who would ever prefer minced meat unless it needs to be mixed with other stuff, like fat, herbs, bone marrow etc. The ingredients:

Let’s start with yoghurt, they call it smoked garlic buffalo yoghurt. Calling it smoked is a good way of describing the taste, but technically I think it is more of a strained yoghurt. My mom sometimes does it at home, what you do is, you buy a regular yoghurt, put it inside a cloth bag, hang it somewhere like the sink, and wait for a day. Most of the water will be strained, leaving a dense yoghurt both in texture and taste. For me, it is the best form of yoghurt, and it is too easy to make, you should definitely give a try. I think including this is a really good decision, I’ll explain why very shortly. They have also added garlic that completes it. Try this once, and you’ll never be able to eat garlic sauce in doner shops again. Then comes onions. Onions and garlic is such a good combination that I can almost call it culinary cheating. As seen in the picture, they have added parsley and sumac to onions, which is probably the best thing to do for most of doner/kebab dishes. Onions, parsley and sumac is widely used in kebabs or their sides, they are always the perfect additions. Sumac has acidic taste which balances the fat of kebabs. Red pickle was supposed to have pomegranate but to be honest I could not taste it at all. Pomegranate sauce is sometimes used in salads that you eat in Turkish kebab restaurants. Again, its sour-ish taste balances other dominant flavours. Cucumbers seldom find any place near kebabs but they are included here nevertheless, Kebab Kitchen always insists that they are not 100% authentic and I totally agree that dishes and flavours should be amended to match local tastes. Still, I think a doner is much better without cucumber. Then comes pepper; tasty, sweet, green peppers. I hardly find this kind of peppers in London but they are always a must for kebabs. Lastly comes mild or hot tomato sauce. When Oliver squeezed it over doner, just from the colour and texture I knew it was a very good one. This has basically nothing in common with chilli sauce in doner shops. I expect it is made out of cooked tomato and butter, along with onions and some herbs like cumin and maybe thyme. It’s simply perfect. Oliver finishes the doner with some sea salt and black pepper, and wraps in lavash. I find black pepper as an undervalued condiment to doner.

Ooops! With that excitement I forgot to take a picture of wrap, but its not too bad, as it looks like any other doner 🙂 I’ll make sure I include it when I next eat at Kebab Kitchen.

From the first bite, I get those familiar tastes of kebab dishes.. Just like, say, yoğurtlu soslu beyti. Smell of lamb meat, onions, yoghurt, garlic, tomato sauce.. It is too easy to realise this is not an ordinary doner. James’ and Oliver’s trip to Turkey has surely paid off! For me, except cucumbers and red cabbage, all flavours are in harmony and completing each other. This doner also reminds me of İskender kebab, one of the most popular dishes in Turkey. İskender is basically pita, doner, tomato sauce, butter, and yoghurt. Kebab Kitchen’s doner is almost an İskender kebab wrap, amazing! It is clear that James and Oliver were inspired my many dishes in their trip, and added many flavours they found in various kebabs. Result: Success! Indeed there are -surprisingly not many- restaurants that add tomato sauce to doners in Turkey, and they usually turn to be very popular. I have never seen yoghurt added to a doner, but I must say, I worked out perfectly.

There are three factors that make meat tasty: The animal’s diet & age, fat in meat, juice of meat. Doner meat, which stays in front of heat for hours, can easily lose all its juice. In order to offset this, usually 30% of doner is basically fat – compared to ~20% in burgers. Because of the same reason, the best doner that you can eat is the one that’s first cooked. 10-11 years ago, a couple of times I had the chance to eat first the very first cooked doner of the day, and I can’t forget that taste. Knowing this, I lined up early to have the first bites. Although the marinated meat was cooked very well, I had too much fat on my doner, and worse, they were not soft or melted. Yes, one third of what you eat can be fat but normally you never feel it as they are usually minced and cooked along with meat. This time it wasn’t the case. I think it was probably because of having large chucks of fat hanging from the edges. I believe this can be overcame by cooking the first bites a bit slower and placing the fats better. If we assume that red cucumber and cabbage must stay for the sake of matching British taste, this fat issue is the only criticisim I have for Kebab Kitchen.

Anything else that I’d like? Instead of cold and chopped tomatoes, can they be cooked just like peppers? I bet they would taste sweeter and better. Secondly, when I imagine yoghurt, garlic, cucumbers and sumac, I immediately recall Cacık, which has mint too, so that can be a good addition. Lastly, they can use organic meat. Surely using unminced meat costs relatively higher for a regular doner already, but using organic meat would surely make this dish top class.

Except disturbing pieces of fat, I enjoyed my Kebab Kitchen doner, it was definitely the best doner I had in London. It is inspiring, innovative and pushing the limits.

Rating: 7,5 / 10

Price: £4,5 for medium, £6 for large.

Location: Kebab Kitchen is new and mobile, best way to find them is to check their website.

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2 Comments

  1. I am gonna give it a try very soon

    Reply
  2. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis.

    It’s always useful to read articles from other writers and
    use something from other web sites.

    Reply

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