Kebabs the true Turkish delight
High street kebabs may not have the best reputation, but some Turkish restaurants are now getting the credit they
Oliver Thring, The Guardian
Kebabs enjoying something of a renaissance. Photograph: Alamy
A gimlet eye recently spotted that a little Turkish restaurant is currently the seventh-best rated in London on the website
TripAdvisor, beating more than 10,000 others. It's not, as some have giddily said, strictly a kebab shop, and it's worth
noting straight away that TripAdvisor is an imperfect source of information on restaurants. Most of its contributors seem to
be tourists, and visitors in a new city are by definition inexpert local restaurant critics.
Nonetheless, Meze Mangal in the south-eastern borough of Lewisham is a loveably dowdy restaurant which has been knocking out
superb grilled meats and pide (a Turkish pizza variant) for more than 12 years. And it's great to see kebabs featuring so
highly on such a list. Turkish food has long been the most underrated in the UK, and its greatest offering perhaps the most
bastardised and maligned of all our imported foods.
A good kebab marries the comforting solidity of its bread and the crunch of its salad to the nourishing, tender spice of its
meat. It resembles in no way the standard dismal offering of the British high street: a cardboard pocket of dough, brown and
wizened lettuce, a greasy spurt of sauce, the textureless brown of processed flesh.
I have a small mobile kebab venture of my own currently on hiatus and I've studied the history and manifestations of the
food in some detail, both here and in Turkey. The ugly city of Gaziantep by the Syrian border produces the most ravishing
ones: the lamb there lamb, mutton and goat are the best meats is marinated for several days in a fierce and pungent mix of
spices, the floppy breads are warm and chewy, the saucing is judicious and rich. People take them seriously well beyond the
Caucasus and south into Persia and the Middle East, but Turkey is the true home of the kebab. "Doner" means "to turn" in
Turkish: a gently revolving, well-assembled spit of unminced meat is one of the most beautiful shop windows I can think of.
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