With a history dating back thousands of years and encompassing a rich tapestry of recipes, traditions and nations, the kebab is a foodstuff to be cherished and respected.
Converse to popular (and unfortunate) association, the Middle Eastern dish has so much more to offer than a dodgy doner at 3am.
Over the past few years, the gastro ‘bab has spiralled from a novelty to a full-on foodie favourite.
So, if you fancy upgrading your experience, here are the best places to pick up a posh kebab in London.
Ever had a Michelin-starred kebab? While Le Bab hasn’t quite reached that height, the Soho restaurant does have two ex-Le Gavroche chefs at its helm. Homemade flatbreads are filled with the likes of corn fed chicken and free range pork cooked for 15 hours, with additions including pickled fennel, beetroot puree and zhoung mayo. Soon the team are also second site Maison Bab in Covent Garden.
Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1B 5PW, eatlebab.com
What The Pitta
If vegetarians can enjoy a bit of paneer in their kebab, what do the vegans get? What The Pitta, that’s what. Forget the falafel, this totally vegan kebab joint serves up a spiced soya doner. Pieces come wrapped up in fresh bread with soya yoghurt tzatziki, chilli sauce and homemade hummus.
Various locations, whatthepitta.com
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar
Kebab or kabob? The kebab takes many forms, one of those being the shawarma, similar to the Turkish doner with an Levantine twist. Grilling gurus Berber & Q chose to put the shawarma front and centre of their second venture on Exmouth Market. Get your chops around their insanely juicy lamb shawarma served in a pita with tahina and herb salad.
46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4QE, shawarmabar.co.uk
Remember the 2018 Oscars? Of course you don’t, because the only award ceremony anyone was thinking about in march should have been the British Kebab Awards. Tarshish, a Turkish and Mediterranean grill in Wood Green, scooped the top prize in the Fine Dining category. Traditional Turkish options range from adana shish to chicken beyti, with cocktails and live music bringing the party to this 300 cover restaurant.
16-20 High Road, Wood Green, N22 6BX, tarshish.co.uk
Black Axe Mangal
Thanks to a daily changing menu, we can’t guarantee you’ll get a kebab at Black Axe Mangal – we can, however, guarantee quite the experience regardless. BAM cooks its meat in a traditionally fiery Turkish mangal oven, and the results are both innovative and stonkingly well cooked. If you can’t get a kebab exactly, tuck into their lamb offal flatbread – so good that it’s the only dish to never leave the menu.
156 Canonbury Road, Highbury, N1 2UP, blackaxemangal.com
With a name that means “come on”, these Lebanese cafes look to guide us from the streets of Soho to the streets of Beirut. Mezze is the name of the game here, but there’s always room for a healthily sized portion of Yalla Yalla’s shawarma, shish taouk or kafta meshoue, served with vermicelli rice and a sumac dusted salad.
Various locations, yalla-yalla.co.uk
Souvlaki, the Greek incarnation of the kebab, is popularly sold as street food in the gyros style (shaved off a rotisserie) and wrapped up in a hot pitta with yoghurt, tomatoes, red onion and chips – yes, chips. Inside the wrap. Souvlaki specialists The Athenian has six locations across London, serving up all the usual fillings, as well as a vegan tomato croquettes version.
Various locations, theathenian.co.uk
The Kati Roll Company
On its global travels the kebab has also made itself home in India (chicken tikka is technically a kebab), where the kati roll serves up some spice. The New York-hailing Kati Roll Company now boasts a location in London, where spiced meats are wrapped up in paratha bread and served with accompaniments including beaten egg and yoghurt.
24 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 8QL, thekatirollcompany.com
If you head to Green Lanes in Harringay, you’re spoilt for choice with kebabs. Known as Little Turkey, the plethora of Turkish restaurants in the area take some navigation, but Gokyuzu should be on your map. An increasingly upmarket option, the restaurant boasts authentic food in slick surroundings – and a side of Turkish pizza never hurts.
Various locations, gokyuzurestaurant.co.uk