Openings

Eat this: Kebab Queen

The founders of Maison Bab use international influences to kick the kebab up a notch.

13 March 2019
dessertmeatmiddle easternrestaurantsseafood
  • The Gist: A kebab-themed, high-end dining experience
  • The Chef: Manu Canales
  • Location: 4 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA
  • Food in 5 words: Finger licking and messy mouthfuls
  • See more: www.kebabqueen.com

How did we get here?

Through the founders of Maison Bab, where this new concept is actually housed – it’s situated in the cavernous basement of the property and has been styled to mimic a high street. Stephen Tozer and Ed Brunet boast kebab pedigree, having launched their first restaurant, Le Bab, back in 2015, but it will be head chef Manu Canales who leads this ambitious opening, cooking four nights a week.

The menu is influenced by kebab cultures from around the world, from the UK’s high street takeaways to Turkish ocakbasi restaurants, as well as the kabab koobidehs of Iran and the shawarmas of Lebanon and Israel. “We’re inspired by everything from childhood memories of food to more recent trips to the Middle East,” Canales told Food Spark’s sister site Big Hospitality. “The tasting menu format is a great way to showcase what we do and take guests on a journey through kebabs.”

The trio are clear that the concept isn’t trying to replicate traditional dishes, thought they do try to respect them. “We’re the first to admit it’s not our culture,” explained Tozer.“Manu has an incredible technical grounding in food so we can bring something new to the table. We just saw a massive creative opportunity.”

Canales has created a seven-course tasting menu for Kebab Queen and, along with his team, will be leading guests through the dishes from the open kitchen. They will encourage an uninhibited approach to dining – guests will rip, tear and eat with their hands, in a ritual that pays homage to late-night kebabs.

Tozer is also quick to point out that they don’t think there is anything wrong with the current state of the kebab. “We’re doing this because we love kebabs, and by extension the current kebab scene,” he said. “What I find really strange is the idea that people look at what we’ve done and what we’re doing and say: ‘You must be doing that because you think kebabs need improving.’ This is not a kebab rescue mission. We just want to do our own thing with it. When people open new pizza restaurants, they’re not accused of gentrifying pizza.”

What’s different about it?

Food is served on a heated 10-seat counter and – with the exception of one dish – is designed to be eaten with the hands. The counter, which is made out of material called Dekton that is impervious to the blemishes in which bacteria can hide, is wiped down between courses with a squeegee and a homemade cleaning solution of lemon juice, vodka and citric acid.

Cooking on a custom wood-fired grill, the menu kicks off with two starters: the Foie Gras Kebabito – a miniature, two-bite kebab of barbecued foie gras with date puree and white onions – and secreto of Iberian pork with lardo pickled in cider vinegar and dusted with green chilli powder.

There’s a fish course – a chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish, monkfish liver and chicken skin – that is plated onto a charred cabbage leaf, along with lamb and duck dishes.

To finish, Got Milk? Is an ode to Canales’ childhood in Spain: freshly baked, sticky milk buns filled with caramelised cream and topped with creme fraiche sorbet.

“Kebab Queen is the pinnacle of our project. The piquancy, umami and smokiness of the kebab really lend themselves to reinterpretation,” said Canales.“We’re creatively pairing Middle Eastern flavours with meticulous and classic technique. But we want you to relax and get stuck in; it’s about combining the intense flavours of high-end dining with the communal, elbow-to-elbow fun of the kebab shop.”

You’ve got to try...

The main event, which is the rum-aged Spit Roast Fesenjan Duck. Inspired by the iconic Iranian stew, it is served with a crust of crisp Persian rice (tahdig), intended to be pulled apart with the fingers.

Sparkie also likes...

The adoptive British doner kebab, which becomes theDoner Risotto, an intense lamb jus risotto finished with classic garnishes and shavings of lamb tongue.

Go if...

You want to eat kebabs with Michelin-star potential.

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