Here is a sample of the news headlines from a cursory Google search on the term "kebab shop": Girl Gets Head Trapped in Bin Lid at Kebab Shop, Police Hunt Woman in Connection with Alleged Kebab Shop Assault, Dance Party Breaks Out in Devon Kebab Shop, Zero-Rated Kebab Shop is Blamed for Rat Infestation in Cricklewood.
It's all there—crime, sex, intrigue, unwanted rodents. The shit that gets played out in Britain's kebab shops is Shakespearean in its complexity, offering a rare window onto the unfiltered human experience (i.e. occasionally getting too pissed to remember what size your head is).
Given their status as the UK's most popular drunk food, kebabs hold a special place in British cuisine. Of course, we like the "gourmet" versions with sourdough flatbread and the authentic, non-mystery meat kind served in Turkish restaurants, but most of our run-ins with kebabs happen opposite a rotating slab of please-not-dog meat, blinking into the neon glare of a KEBAB SPECAL menu.
Even the most committed ~foodie~ will admit to having woken up with chili sauce on their pillow at least once, so MUNCHIES asked some of London's top chefs for their inebriated kebab shop order of choice.
You'll thank them and flick back to these words of wisdom—should you ever find yourself in the rare and frankly upsetting situation of entering a kebab shop sober enough to remember the passcode on your phone.
Jonathan Woolway, head chef at St. John Smithfield. Whenever I've ended up in a kebab shop with my mates at the end of a night, I'm always the annoying one that waits for them to cook the chicken shish. I've never been too keen on the scrape-me-off donner kebabs. They'd all be munching away outside—usually in the rain, in Wales—and I'd be waiting patiently for mine to cook.
Always full salad: usually pickled red cabbage, onions, and then the standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber. Heavy on mint sauce and just a showing of chili. I don't mind a little bit of spice but I can only take so much, so I find just a showing of chili—like when somebody taps you on the shoulder and you sort of look around and no one's there. That sort of thing.
Always chips, preferably skinny fries. Lovely.
Richard Turner, executive head chef at Hawksmoor. I've personally not found particularly great kebab in England but should our inclement clime prove irksome I can heartily recommend Al Sediq, Al Qanawat in Damascus for a splendid shawarma.
Made with the more authentic local mutton rather than the imported beef common in neighbouring countries and dressed simply with garlic tahini, no chili sauce here.
Lee Tiernan, head chef at Black Axe Mangal. I would like to say I'd go for a shish but I'm a real sucker for a donner kebab. It depends on how filthy you're feeling—sometimes you just want instant food. I'm not that adventurous with sides, weirdly. I like chili sauce, loads of salad, and pickled chilis.
What gets me is that the bread in kebab shops now is shit, they all use tortillas. I didn't want to do Black Axe Mangal unless I could do decent bread, it's the most important thing to me. Once you're an established chefs, it's quite straightforward to source the best meat and grilling a lamb chop doesn't take that much skill once you've got it down but getting bread right takes time. It's the cornerstone of what we do. We could get another six covers in there if it wasn't for my huge, penis-compensating oven but it's like having a jet engine at your disposal. The bread is the thing people come back for.