Reviewed by William Dobson
Often when I say ‘I’m just popping out for a kebab’, my remark is met either with derision or comments such as ‘no wonder you’re so fat!’ However, I’m a huge believer that there is something to be said for the humble kebab. A well-made shawarma is as tasty and as healthy as you could hope to find from a fast food dish. Ultimately, it’s just slow roasted meat, perhaps some yoghurt, fresh flat bread and salad. Yet, too often in the UK, when we think of a kebab we think of a rotating piece of textureless ‘meat’ which, in flavour, resembles slightly off dog food – at least if we have any recollection the next morning of what it actually tasted like.
Last night I went to Ranoush Juice on High Street Kensington for supper. It’s part of the Maroush chain of Lebanese restaurants and takeaways in London. Too cold to eat out, we decided to have a few mezze to start with before the main event. To be honest, they weren’t really worth it. The muhamara was tasty but it had an overly stodgy texture; the chicken livers were, again, perfectly edible, quite agreeable in fact, but there was a tad too much lemon juice in the sauce which overpowered the other flavours; and the hummous with lamb was, well, just hummous with lamb. There’s not much more you can say about it and, at the price they charge (£7.50), there really should be.
But the kebab…for anyone who has ever laughed at me for saying that I’m having a kebab for lunch, then I urge you, no, I implore you to go there. This is a proper shawarma. The meat actually resembles meat both in look and, more importantly, in taste. The lamb was so full of flavour, with not a hint of grease in sight. There was a wonderful contrast between the crispy bits that had been exposed while rotating on the grill and the soft and succulent mouthfuls which hadn’t, while careful spicing and a trace of citrus gave subtle nuances of delight. Expertly wrapped in some delicious flat bread – this is important as there is nothing in life so annoying as a poorly wrapped kebab – and filled with cabbage to give a healthy crunch, gherkins for a lovely piquancy and some tahini yoghurt, imparting a nutty taste and added moisture, kebabs don’t come much better. If I had to quibble, and this is really an issue of personal taste, then I would have asked for a splash of heat, perhaps from some chilli sauce, but it’s such a minor point it’s hardly worth mentioning. They do some pretty mean baklava there as well!
I should add, as a postscript, that my dining companion for the evening said that, while she did enjoy the kebab, she’s had better in Berlin. I’m not sure I necessarily believe her. I don’t think I’ve ever had a kebab in Germany – I might have had one after an evening at Oktoberfest, it’s all a bit hazy – but, if this is indeed true, then I’m on the next flight out from Stansted.
Visit Restaurant Website
Address: 86 High Street Kensington, London, W8 4SG
Telephone: 020 7938 2234
Average Price Per Person: £4.50 (Chicken or Lamb Shawarma)