Location: Warwick Way, London Victoria, SW1
Rating: 3 1/2 pieces of meat, 2 flames.
State of Reviewer: Sober, middle-of-day...
Ah, the love that dare not speak its name: the lunchtime kebab. It’s not something one can just announce in a crowded office – “Oh, see you in a few; I’m going for a kebab!” – without a degree of justified disbelief from one's colleagues. The impetus of copious alcohol is, of course, what usually drives our hapless kebabee into the shop, and squeezes on his liver until he shouts “loadsa chili sauzzze!” and ultimately wears more kebab than he eats. Sober, the whole experience may seem strange, empty or, worse yet, foolish. Nevertheless, as a devotee of the delicacy, I decided this experiment must be conducted. Amidst cries of “have you been drinking?” and crude jokes about impending bowel movements, I left the safety of the office and headed to SW1.
stevenothing, who joined me on this occasion, had recommend the Cyprus Mangal as place that does an "okay" kebab. It is an unassuming establishment nestled between similarly anonymous shops. The signage is spartan. No neon of any note. Although an eat-in option is available, we opted for the takeaway. There isn’t a lot of room to stand in the takeaway area while waiting for food but luckily the staff were efficient so we weren't stood around long. A couple of glassy-eyed, tracksuited customers stumbled in and out during this period, greeting the owners like old friends, in mumbles and groans of indeterminate language; a peek too far into the abyss that is lunchtime kebababbage.
The elephant’s feet were glistening in the afternoon sunlight and the lamb one, in particular, seemed to be exhibiting a waterfall effect of fat. This cascading grease (at first I wasn't sure if it was food or some kind of water feature) put me off what would’ve been my usual choice so I went for the large chicken doner instead. This was carved fresh from a less drippy elephant foot and served Burrito-style in a heated flatbread.
Although non-traditional, the flatbread approach has gained popularity in the past few years and is now, in my opinion, not only an acceptable alternative to pitta but a preferable one at that. However, at Cyprus Mangal, this leaner bread suffers at the mercy of the greased meat and its lava-like juices. Half-way into eating my kebab, I noticed the orange fat that had been dripping through the bottom of the flatbread was pooling on the tabletop. The more I ate, the worse it got until the pool was such that you could’ve rolled a small child around in it and called it a bath. A whole handful of napkins were required to mop it up afterwards and believe me when I say I've got big hands.
The final mouthful was not a pleasant one as it was the soggy end of the flatbread. It had the texture of an oyster. That said, unprecedented fat content aside, the kebab certainly had its plus points. The flavouring of the meat was a subtle but effective blend of spices, the salad was fresh, crispy and cucumberless (hooray! A bonus half point for that alone!) and the flatbread, before it soaked through and became merely fatbread, was a nice touch. The chili sauce was not particularly hot but it had enough of a kick to tingle the tastebuds and a solid, earthy flavour.
I broke into a small sweat after finishing the kebab and my stomach was a little unhappy about it this afternoon but I think this may just be a natural side-effect of inaugaral lunchtime kebabbage and I accept that I undertook this at my own risk so can’t really hold that against Cyprus Mangal. Insane grease aside, I have to admit they do a reasonably nice kebab.