Thought kebabs were just one of the many bad decisions made on a drunken night out on the town? Think again. Just like burgers and fried chicken, this year kebabs have undergone a bit of a transformation, becoming the new gastro food that has people queueing around the streets of Soho. Yup, that’s right. The ultimate drunk food just got the London treatment. Posh kebabs? Now there’s some gentrification we can really get behind.
1. Suvlaki, Soho
We thought it would always take an uncomfortable Easy Jet flight and a few bad tan lines to finally reach that feeling of total holiday bliss, when you’re sitting at a taverna on the beach, with a cold Mythos in hand and the smell of charcoal-grilled meat cooking in the air. That was until we discovered Suvlaki. Finally, a Greek restaurant in London that actually smells of Greece. Situated slap bang in the middle of Soho, Suvlaki is a one-room restaurant, with a flaming robata-style grill and graffiti-scribbled walls. As you would expect from a restaurant named after the country’s national street food, the menu is limited; choose from 4 wines and a few imported beers and an array of skewered meats, served either in a pita or as they come.
We opted for the Suvlaki Exuberance, a huge sharing platter of two skewers, two mini wraps, four sides and a pita burger, which we guarantee you won’t be able to finish – always a welcome defeat when the whole shebang is only setting you back £17 per person. The feta on the Greek salad is that crumbling, salty deliciousness that you can never find in the supermarkets and the tzatziki is the perfect balance between creamy and crunchy – mopped up with a crispy, charred pita and you might just find yourself in heaven. The meat is succulent and perfectly seasoned but the ultimate show stealer has to be the vegetarian skewer: that hot Mastelo cheese and honey made a melting moment in our mouths that we will never forget. There’s only one dessert on the menu and unsurprisingly, it’s totally divine. But then again how can you really go wrong with Chocolate Biscuit Cake and Greek coffee ice cream? Suvlaki proves with effortless style that less is so, so much more.
21 Bateman Street, W1D 3AL
2. Le Bab, Soho
These Soho-based Shawarmas will have you salivating more than ‘Stavros the Stallion’ ever could. Located in Kingly Court, Le Bab is a ‘kebab renaissance project’, using Michelin starred chefs to bring London an exquisitely delicious new take on the ancient dish. Don’t let ‘Michelin starred chefs’ scare you off, though – not all sensational food is followed by a sensationally ginormous food bill. Shocking, we know. Simple, elegant and damn cool, Le Bab oozes sophistication. And that’s just the restaurant. The kebabs themselves are almost too beautiful to eat. Presented in an ‘open-sandwich’ style with the fillings delicately laid out over a perfectly floured, home-made flatbread, the word ‘renaissance’ was forever ringing in our ears. It is an art form. And that’s before you’ve even tasted it.
A seasonal menu (so at least four trips a year is a must), we opted for the free range pork shawarma and the paneer bab, cooked on a wood and charcoal-fired robata and both with a side of their infamous fondue fries. The pork was cooked to perfection and accompanied with a winter salad, burnt quince puree, crackling, pork aioli, zhoug that exuded flavours of the Middle East we didn’t even know existed. And perhaps you’re thinking what we were thinking…cheesy chips with a ‘posh’ kebab? Oh yes indeed. These hand-cut, skin-on chips came with a subtle stout-and-stilton dip that knocked our socks off. All of that with a scrumptious pomegranate mojito (yes, they do cocktails too) and a bottle of wine as recommended by one of their fantastic staff members? Uh-hum, Le Bab has officially changed our entire understanding of the combination of booze and babs once and for all…for which we will be forever grateful.
Top Floor, Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
3. Black Axe Mangal, Highbury and Islington
The ever-present queue of customers standing outside this ‘metal and mangal’ joint is testament to the quality of the grub. And there’s never been a more fitting use for that noun – because this is grubby food, dirty deliciousness, the good shit. Born from a crazy summer pop-up in a Copenhagen club, Black Axe Mangal is the third child of husband-and-wife duo Lee and Kate Tiernan, who met working at St John Bread & Wine. Keeping firmly in line with the heavy metal theme, the food is fierce: you can try a lamb tongue kebab, smoked tête de veau, suckling kid and pork jowl from the wood-fired oven. And you’ll feel pretty manly when you do.
There are plenty of veggie options too for those that aren’t so carnivorously-inclined, including salads, broad bean falafel and also main fish dishes on the weekend. The century Egg and Anchovy is arguably the most adventurous offering on the menu though. Jumping continents, the egg is preserved in the Chinese tradition, using clay, ash, quicklime, salt and rice chaff: a surprisingly sinister black aesthetic, made even more dangerous by the spiky fried anchovies that poke in all directions. Although a gourmet grill, Black Axe Mangal proves that posh kebabs are still very, very dirty.
156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP