McDonnas, Derby City Centre

Greetings reader. I apologise for leaving it so long between kebab reviews but I have been busy expanding my horizons recently. In fact, I recently ate a chicken tikka kebab! Imagine that! Chicken in a kebab. What will they think of next?

Jet packs, I hope.

I thought I would resurrect this blog by visiting a takeaway outlet that is regularly reborn itself.This week I went to a takeaway which is on Abbey Street in Derby, just next door to Letz Eat (which I reviewed here). It used to be called Spice25 but that must have gone tits up so it’s now imaginatively called McDonnas. It’s a new takeaway that doesn’t offer anything original on it’s menu. It’s all kebabs, pizza, burgers and chips, and, just like Derby Grill, it says all kebabs are served on a pitta bread. That’s actually a lie. They serve them on naan bread.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the shish doner mix kebab – I may have tried a chicken kebab recently but it was a long way off converting me to a new meat deity – and it cost a whopping £6. Just to put that into perspective, £6 can buy you Faringdon  Beech wood ButterHands 25cm (Set of 2) or a 7oz tub of Super Collagen Powder Type 13 (I’ve no idea what this is or why you’d spend £6 on it) or 1.5 litres of petrol if you’re south of Watford Gap. When I asked about this price I was told  “the portions are very big”. I immediately thought, but did not say, “you clearly haven’t heard of the meerkebab.

I was awash with excitement when I saw the donner meat spinning on the spit as I could tell the meat was being cooked to a point where it became a little bit crispy. Adding a bit of texture to the donner meat is often the key to making a good kebab great so this filled my heart with joy (and, later that evening, cholesterol). The shish looked good too. It wasn’t artificially red like a piece of meat disguised as a post box but more natural, juicy and very edible. If I were to liken this shish to a girl band member I would liken it to Cheryl Cole without the Geordie accent. I suspect if this shish could talk it would have had a mysterious hybrid accent – part Bristolian, part Iranian- like a human splicing of Justin Lee Collins and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

I digress.

This kebab was considerably smaller than the monster kebabs I have had previously. It weighed 748g making it a fair sized kebab but still lighter than the Meerkebab and considerably lighter than the 3 chefs Chaddeston kebab which although I haven’t reviewed yet I know weighs over 1kg! Thankfully, this medium sized kebab made up for it’s lack of weight by being impressively delicious.

The donner meat was crispy and cut into pieces long enough to hold above your face and lower into your mouth from a great height. It was beautiful, like a reverse rescue of the Chilean miners where instead of rescuing trapped men I took part in the condemning of kebab into pit of stomach acid. It was greasy poetry in motion.

Little did I know my unabashed, unashamed, unrestrained excitement had only just begun. I stuck my fork into a chunk of shish, pulled it out from under its donner meat duvet and proceeded to take a bite from the lamb. Oh dear lord. This was good.

I like my steak rare, my roast beef pink and I would happily consume steak tartare until my trousers burst at the seams so to take a bite of this wonderfully charred on the outside piece of shish to discover a slightly pink, tender, juicy and delightfully flavoursome middle made my eyes roll into the back of my head and my mouth let out a climactic sigh of relief. Shish meat in Derby does not come any better than this. Ignore anything I have said before about good shish meat in Derby because McDonnas do shish better than the rest.

The kebab trimmings at McDonnas were good also. The chilli sauce is perfectly acceptable, the salad was fresh and the naan bread was plenty good enough for a Saturday dinner for one. If I had to choose between the donner meat at McDonnas or the donner meat at The Derby Grill, I would say The Derby Grill is slightly better than McDonnas but only by a small margin. This means McDonnas is now Derby’s 2nd best donner meat provider. Even more impressive than this is the fact that they do the best shish that I have found in the city, possibly even the country, ever! That’s some statement coming from me so the McDonnas owners have much to shout about. Keep up the good work guys.

I’m lovin’ it!

 

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3 Chefs, Littleover, Derby

Oh, hello. Pleased to see you here again. I was away for sometime because my typing box died a sudden and violent death, similar to the man in Jurassic Park who gets eaten while on the toilet. There were no dinosaurs, nor was there a toilet, but my point about the typing box dying is at least true. During my one month absence I did eat many a kebab but I failed to keep notes and I have forgotten many of the vital details that you the readers enjoy so much. Fret ye not though, for I have returned with a new kebab review with which you can become ever so slightly more informed about Derby’s kebab marketplace.

This week’s kebab is from a takeaway that I have visited on one or two occasions in the past with no memorable experiences, good or bad. 3 Chefs takeaway in Littleover, Derby, is a take on Burton Road just a few doors down from The Village Grill (which I intend to review in a few weeks) and they do the takeaway staples of kebabs, pizzas, curries, burgers and various side dishes that can all be deep fried. I don’t care for the gubbins of curries or pizzas though, so let’s jump right into the facts.

As is the standard I opted for the shish doner mixed kebab with salad, yoghurt mint sauce and chilli sauce. This kebab wasn’t cheap, coming in at £4.90 with no option to have small or large, so I was expecting a kebab big enough to sink a small dingy and, much to my delight, that is what I got. This kebab broke all previous records as I weighted it in at a mighty 816g; that’s roughly the same as a meercat. I thought Al Nawabz kebab was big but 3 Chefs just raised the bar. Good job too because I was struggling to fit underneath the bar due to all the kebabs I have been eating lately.

The size of this meerkebab was especially good when the thinness of the bread was considered. 3 Chefs make their naan breads to order and they got it just right as this was light, thin and crispy with none of the heavy, doughy characteristics that some other takeaways seem happy to serve up.  So far, so good.

The salad was fresh and plentiful which is all I ask for in a kebab. I don’t need fancy rocket salad with beetroot and walnut coleslaw, nor do I want shredded lettuce that has the colour of an autumnal leaf and the crisp bite of a wet paperback.

When I walked into the shop I saw the doner was cooking on the spit and the greasy, lovely, artery blocking fat dripped off the bottom of the spit. My hopes of having some meat cut fresh off the spit were dashed however when the metal pot was opened and the meat was taken from within. To be fair, the meat hadn’t been in their long as I had just seen him fill the pot up as I arrived and the fact that the meat was cooking on the spit suggested I would be getting new meat. I can’t rave about the meat but I can’t say it was bad. It was a standard fayre for Derby. It was thin, but not quite as wafer thin as I think it should be, but it they did cut it in long strips so I was happy. In terms of taste, it was quite greasy, and at one stage throughout the meal I tasted blood, although attributing this to the takeaway is grossly unfair because it was my own blood. I managed to bite down on the inside of my cheek with the force of a JCB digger. Naturally, this made me say “oh flippin’ heck”.

Shish meat shouldn’t be difficult to cook properly but so frequently it is tough, gristly and awful. 3 Chefs managed to avoid making it awful and, had I ordered from home to have it delivered. I probably wouldn’t have even commented on it but it was not cooked to order, it was served from a warm pot and it was not charred with lovely crispy edges. It was still bloody delicious though so I should STFU and stop moaning. Admittedly it tasted like a processed marinade but I couldn’t care less so long as it tastes this lovely.

Overall the 3 Chefs served a good, solid kebab that one would be happy to use if we had friends coming to stay from far off distant lands.  It was expensive, but it was a whopping great big feast, and the meat was done in such a way that I couldn’t really moan about it even though I love moaning. If I had one gripe it would be the chilli sauce is not hot enough and, quite frankly, this is no real complaint at all.

Al Nawabz, Osmaston Road, Derby

The ability of our senses to bring back distant memories is something very special. Whether it is the smell of freshly cut grass taking us back to childhood summer days spent kicking a ball around the garden or the sight of a summer sunset taking us back to the our first date with a loved one, we can vividly recall past experiences as if we were actually there again.

This week’s takeaway is located on Osmaston Road in Allenton, Derby. As a kid I lived in Alvaston, which is next to Allenton, and I spent many evenings ordering kebabs from one of the many kebab shops in the area. I only mention this so that I can highlight an observation made from eating hundreds of kebabs; a kebab from Alvaston or Allenton will taste different to any kebab anywhere else in the world. They seem to have a shared common ancestry.

I drove to Al-Nawabz Takeaway and ordered to standard shish doner mixed kebab costing £4.20. I took a seat and watched Dragon’s Den on the plasma tv while they created my dinner delight. While I recognise this isn’t an interior design review, I must say Al-Nawabz have certainly made an effort. The shop is clean, the menus are bright and well laid out and the furniture is comfortable, if not a little garish. The bright red leather sofas made me question whether I was ordering kebab or a massage with “extras”. I digress.

The kebab arrived and I set off for home with the perfume of the kebab filling the space of my Fiesta. Immediately I had visions of walking into Allenton as a teenager and buying a shish doner mixed kebab from the Allenton Kebabs (yellow sign, red window frames, opposite Somerfield). The smell permeated my very soul. I immediately knew this was going to be a good kebab because it couldn’t smell so wonderful without having the flavour to back it up. The big question was: could this kebab replicate the kebabs of my youth to perfection?

I got home and tore the paper wrapping off like I an expectant child unwrapping an Xbox 360 elite with 2 controllers and 4 games at Christmas. At that very moment in time I had one thing on my brain and it rhymed with hijab. As I took a glimpse of the sweaty meat, I knew there and then that I had unearthed a diamond. The naan bread folded back and revealed a very generous portion of perfectly cut doner meat – long, thin and browned – sitting on top of a bed of cubes of lamb shish that were an artificially bright red in colour. Heaven had revealed itself to me through the medium of meat.

Before I could tuck into this kebab I knew I had work to do. I took the required photos (unavailable because my laptop died) and placed it on the scales. Quite unbelievably, it came in at a whopping 696g which is 100g more than Derby Grill or Letz Eat. This was truly a kebab of almighty proportions, although it was served on naan bread unlike Derby Grills pitta so I suspect the amount of meat given was similar. To be honest, I wasn’t interested in the weight at this stage because the sight and smell of this kebab had tapped into a previously unknown primal instinct which was instructing me to sit down and eat. And eat I did.

I cannot tell you how good this was using words. I’d be better off getting in touch with Andrew Lloyd Webber and asking him to write a musical based on my experience. Then I’d tell him that it didn’t even come close to describing my joy or my ecstasy and I’d say to him “Listen here Webber! That kebab was stop-you-in-your-tracks, knee wobblingly delicious. Imagine a kebab that was as tasty as you are ugly and you’re just about there!” The shish. Oh, the shish. How I miss the shish. Yes, it was cut slightly too small and it wasn’t charred on the outside like I usually insist shish should be, but that didn’t matter because it was melt in your mouth tender and tasty. Artificial flavours, maybe, but I’m eating kebab, not fine dining. I want an oral orgasm and I well and truly got one. Let me put it like this. I was raised a Catholic. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, where the bread and the wine literally turn into the actually body and blood of Jesus Christ, so when you receive holy communion, you receive bits of Jesus! Only, you don’t. You get some cheap wine and a wafer. I left the church and turned atheist some years ago but it was fraudulent claims like this that turned me away from the church. However, had the Catholic church had the foresight to use lamb shish from Al Nawabz during their holy communion, I wouldn’t have just stayed in the church, I’d be the f*cking Pope. You don’t need to know anymore about Al Nawabz. The meat was devine, the naan bread was far superior to any church wafer (although it was thin and crispy) and the salad was simply lettuce, cabbage, tomato and one slice of cucumber topped with chilli and yoghurt mint sauce. It didn’t need anything else. This was a glorious kebab

The Derby Grill, Friargate, Derby

My first few years of kebab consumption consisted solely of having kebabs from my local chippy where they were served in pitta bread unless you paid an extra 50p for a naan bread, which I never did due to my pocket money at the time being £5 per week. Even with my feckless spending habits, I couldn’t justify spending 10% of my income on a bread upgrade. Then when I got older I discovered kebab shops that were a little further from home but served naan bread as standard with no extra cost. Quite frankly, this revolutionised my kebab eating habits like Jamie revolutionised school dinners.

For the next four years of my kebab eating, I rarely tolerated pitta bread being served with my kebab. Why would one accept a thin pocket of bread when one could have a whole naan bread? It was a no brainer. That is until I grew up and realised the error of my ways.

Bread, despite playing a secondary role to meat, is a vital part of a kebab. Bread is the vessel in which the sacred meat is delivered, so it needs to be played just right; as a pint served in a plastic glass doesn’t feel quite right, nor does a kebab served in a thick doughy naan.

So onwards I move to the review of this week’s kebab shop: The Derby Grill.

The Derby Grill can be found on Friargate in Derby city centre. It claims to be “Derbv’s only real Turkish Kebab shop”, and who am I to argue with them? As will always be the case (assuming it is available), I ordered a small shish doner mixed kebab. I was promptly told they don’t do small; their mixed kebabs are one size fits all. It cost £4.80, which is a little bit expensive given the number of kebab shops in the area, but I was not going to worry because I had largely heard good things about the grill.

The total weight of the kebab was 596g which is heavier than the kebab from letz Eat, even though that was served on quite thick naan bread. What does this mean? It means you get much more meat at Derby Grill. Imagine buying a house and being given an extra bedroom chucked in that you weren’t expecting. That’s how I felt; only I didn’t have the burden of a 25 year debt hanging round my neck.

The Derby Grill kebabs are served on pitta bread. That’s it. There is no extra charge for naan bread because there is no naan bread. I like their style. You want naan bread?  Piss off.

The pitta pocket was crammed full of doner meat and shish meat with delicious chilli sauce and mint yoghurt on top. I say the chilli sauce was delicious because it was quite fruity with a mild heat that just came through the whole dish without being overpowering.

Derby Grill deserves some serious high praise for their shish. Where I said Letz Eat did good shish meat last week, Derby grill just raised the bar. For a start, you get more of it. It’s grilled to order straight from a skewer, right before your eyes and it’s marinated in a sauce which I haven’t had in any other kebab shop before. I don’t know if they make it on site but it’s very good indeed. Also, the cuts of meat are different to most kebab shops. They sometimes have a bit of fat on them, unlike the standard shish chunks often found, but this isn’t a problem at all when it’s cooked properly. The difference between Derby Grill and other kebab shops is stark, if only for the fact that they seem to give a damn about the quality of their produce.

Literally everything is good up to this point and it just keeps getting better. The doner meat was superb. It was thinly sliced and slightly browned to give a near crispy edge and great flavour. Everything that Letz Eat wasn’t, this was. Portion size? Generous. Flavour? Spot on. Fresh? I saw it cut from the spit.

Once I’d finished the pretty large quantity of kebab, I was left with a small bit of pitta which had soaked up much of the chilli sauce, yoghurt mint and kebab juice (grease). For anyone that has experienced this, they’ll know what I mean when I say there is no better finale to a meal than a thin slice of pitta that has been soaking up the juices of a damp kebab. I was once again pleased with the world of kebab.

Congratulations Derby Grill: You won me over.

P.s. I didn’t mention the salad because it didn’t need mentioning. It’s was a pretty standard fayre and was fresh enough to compliment the kebab nicely.

Letz Eat, Derby

It’s my own fault really. I started this blog with a kebab review from Berlin, the home of the doner kebab. As I explained in that opening review I explained what it was that made Berlin kebabs so good and why British kebabs have a long way to go.

I decided that I would go with a tried and tested kebab house for my second review so I could at least give the British kebab a fighting chance. Letz Eat, on Abbey St in Derby, is my local kebab shop and the one that I usually stumble into for my post-beer supper. I’ve spoken to the manager on several evenings about his kebabs and he is proud of them; he sees them as their speciality.

So letz tuck into the review.

I ordered a small shish doner mixed (weight: 588g) which cost a reasonable £4 and is served on a naan bread with a salad (lettuce, cucumber, onion and tomato) and sauce. I correctly chose mint yoghurt sauce and chilli sauce; anything else on a kebab is just wrong, and that includes mayonnaise, you freaks.

So far so good.

Well, not exactly. Without wanting to bang on about the Bistro Istanbul kebab too much, while at the same time realising that is the only reference point we have at this time, I should really compare the salad from the two kebab shops. Imagine a well prepared salad with ripe, fresh diced red tomato, diced cucumber, finely chopped red onion mixed with really crisp, fresh, shredded lettuce. Then imagine a salad with limp lettuce, a slice of tomato that looks like it was cut three days ago from tomato in need of some sun, cucumber slices and thick slices of raw white onion, more suited to casserole than a salad. Have you got that firmly locked in your mind? Good, because I didn’t have to imagine; I lived it. I can still taste the raw onion burning in my throat as I write this.

Okay, so the salad was poor, but reviewing a kebab and concentrating on the salad would be like buying a car to review the window wipers. We’re really interested in the meat.

I’ll start by congratulating the guys at Letz Eat for doing lamb shish well; perfect size chunks of lamb that had nice flavour and, most importantly, it is char grilled upon ordering. The crispy, slightly burnt edges provide a perfect contrast to the juicy and tender centre. It’s important to recognise good shish kebab (it’s not “world peace” important but important if you are doing a kebab review) because often the meat is over cooked making it tough or burnt. The quantity of shish meat was okay given that I ordered a small.

Now onto the real test of a kebab shop; Doner meat.

Doner meat is not great meat when compared to a sirloin steak, slow cooked lamb shank or pan-fried free range chicken breast and, as such, it needs an expert’s touch to show off its true greatness. It needs to be sliced fresh from the spit with a slightly crispy outer layer so that the meat is browned slightly, thus giving it flavour. It should be sliced by hand with such precision it could almost be used as tracing paper and layered in the bread so that every mouthful combines with the other elements to create a flavour combination that no fillet steak with pepper sauce could even some close to matching. So, if kebabs are Letz Eats’ speciality, you might expect they would get it half right, no?

Not. At. All.

Where to begin? Ok, I’ll start with the same complaint I have raised before. The meat was taken from a bain marie rather than being cut from the spit, which, as I have said before, is wrong on many levels but I’ll stick to my biggest complaint. As a customer, I have no idea when that meat was cut from the spit. Was it five minutes ago, an hour ago, three hours ago or yesterday? No one knows for sure, not even the man in the shop, because he probably cut some off the spit and put in into the bain marie along side some older meat that he’d previously cut. Terrible.

Obviously you are now thinking “ok, so it wasn’t fresh but it was cut properly, surely?” Wrong again. I don’t know if the guy in the shop thought I was planning on taking this kebab home and making a doner meat casserole, but he gave me chucks of doner meat. Not slices, but chunks. What do they carve it with? A f**king pickaxe?

If I order chips and I get a half a deep fried potato, I’m going to say that the chip provider can’t make chips. Likewise, if I order doner meat but what I get looks more like a pile of meaty gravel, I’m going to say not only are kebabs NOT this persons speciality, but it’s actually their weakest point. At least, I hope it is. If this really is their speciality, then their burgers must provide quite the fright. I’m thinking bovine stomach cyst pressed between two stale slices of Tesco basic white bread.

I cannot tell you have angry I was when I go home to find I’d been given stewing steak sized cubes of doner meat. Letz Eat normally provide decent kebabs all night long which is exactly why I decided I would go there. Last night they failed badly. So badly, in fact, I am now beginning to wonder whether Tony Hayward has taken charge of the kebab operations.

Bistro Istanbul, Berlin

The inaugural kebab review from The Spinning Lamb comes to you this week from… Berlin.

The German capital is home to an estimated 250,000 residents of Turkish origin, many of whom reside in the Eastern part of the city in an district called Kreuzburg. How convenient it was then, that your kebab reviewer happened to be staying in that very area.

To say you are spoilt for choice when looking for a kebab vendor in this area is an understatement. Every street has a take away serving doner kebap [sic], shwarma, kofta, shish and various other delicious sounding treats. It should come as quite a surprise to hear my one and only kebab of this trip came on the final day of our stay.

With my flight due to leave for the UK at 2pm, I decided i had better have a kebab before heading home otherwise I’d no doubt regret it for months to come. So, with a hangover looming over my shoulder waiting for the final units of alcohol to clear my booze addled brain, I trotted off to the closest take away I could find; Bistro Istanbul.

I ordered a simple Doner Kebap, which consists of salad, lamb doner meat, chilli sauce and a what I think was a garlic yoghurt sauce served in a wrap that was toasted on a panini griddle. Did it succeed in being the most delicious kebab have ever tasted? Honestly, no, it didn’t. It fell short by a tiny margin.

Last time I came to Berlin I tried a doner kebap from Baghdad Bistro which is a just a short walk from Bistro Istanbul. To this day, Baghdad Bistro remains the greatest kebab I have ever had, but Bistro Istanbul now comes in a close second. Here is my analysis of why these Berlin kebabs are better than the Brits.

Bread: The bread in the UK is usually either pitta or naan bread. Now, it is fine to have pitta bread as the vessel in which your dinner is served, except the guy’s serving it in the UK never do it properly. They cram the meat to the bottom of the pitta and shove the salad on top. In order to get a perfect bite – a mouthful of bread, meat, sauce and salad – you must have a jaw that separates at the hinge; a feat observed only in snakes and porn stars. The simple problem with naan bread is it is often to heavy and stodgey.

Meat: When will they learn? UK kebab shops very rarely cut the doner on the spit and put the meat straight into the bread. Normally the meat is cut, placed in a bain marie and then served as and when it is needed. This process dries the meat out, especially if the meat has been sitting in the bain marie for a few hours. I am yet to experience this in Berlin where the meat is cut from the spit right before your eyes. They also get the meat wafer thin. This improves kebab immeasurably… UK take note.

Salad: Fresh! Have a fresh salad guys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had wrinkly cucumber and brown lettuce on a kebab in the UK.

Sauce: Berlin kebabs do sauce properly. Admittedly, many UK takeaways get this right also, but the Berliners have it right every time. The chilli sauce is usually hot and full of flavour, which is something many UK kebab shops lack; they get the heat but miss the taste. The mint yoghurt sauce also has a refreshing, cooling quality which, because of super hot chilli sauces, often gets lost in kebabs I have back home.

If you want a good kebab, head to Berlin. I would happily recommend Bistro Istanbul, just near the Eastern comfort hostel boat, but Berlin has literally thousands of Turkish kebab shops and I would expect all of them will blow your kebab hungry mind.