Kebab Kid, 90 New King’s Road, London SW6 4LU. Take out only, cash only, kebabs £ 4.75 to £ 9.50.
Nusr-Et Steakhouse, 101 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7EZ (01821 687738), steaks £ 85 to £ 1,450.
One Sunday lunchtime and I’m sitting outside a restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, famous for serving £ 1,450 steak, and eating £ 8.50 kebab. I brought my own table, chair and checkered tablecloth. It’s a ridiculous gesture, but then the Steakhouse Nusr-Et is a ridiculous restaurant, and one stupid trick deserves another. Still, I’m sure I eat better than any of the patrons through the huge wooden doors behind me, spreading their sticky largesse on steaks wrapped in gold leaf. Because my lamb shawarma is from the legendary Kebab Kid by Parsons Green, and it’s so pretty too.
The Nusr-Et Steakhouse, inside the Park Tower Hotel, is the latest opening for Turkish butcher-turned-steak merchant Nusret Gökçe, better known as Salt Bae. A few years ago a video of his signature steak salting move has gone viral. He was pictured in a tight white t-shirt and dark glasses, dusting his muscular forearm with salt as if proving he could both season beef and pop an ovary in one motion. Imagine Rod Hull’s emu, naked and dishonoring himself by vomiting into his own neck. Salt Bae, which means Salt Baby, was born. He now has 38 million followers on Instagram. If you were looking for something to illustrate the male terror of sexual inadequacy, a Salt Bae video would serve wonderfully. He handles knives. He likes to be photographed shirtless.
There are now 19 Steakhouse Salt Bae around the world, trading in stupidly expensive steaks, many of which are entirely wrapped in gold leaf, whipped to people who should know better. Among them, David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The gold wrapped burger is £ 100. The short eight-hour rib wrapped in gold costs £ 765. There’s the £ 1,450 2kg Tomahawk. Finish with a golden baklava for £ 50. Shortly after the London branch opened, a photograph of a receipt of £ 1,812.40 for a table of six went viral, including £ 1.40 of cans of Red Bull at £ 11.
Many suggested that I eat there and take the place outside the gold encrusted limbs. I refused. This newspaper has better things to spend its money on. Anyway, it turned out that I could learn a lot of things without ever getting inside. One afternoon, I went to see the menu with the prices. This is not on the site, but is available at the restaurant on a QR code. It comes with videos of golden steaks wrapped in dry ice, like shady competitors in Stars in their eyes. Tonight, Matthew, I’m gonna be a hell of a scandal. A woman behind a golden rope was busy telling a solo dinner that he could only have his table for an hour. I chatted with a stubble man who had gone out to smoke a cigarette. How much was he spending today? He shrugged his shoulders. “Three or four?” We’re not talking about hundreds, are we? “No, but there are seven of us.” I ask him what his job is. He’s laughing. “I’m a finance wanker.” So why is he doing it? “It’s a little fun, isn’t it?” And the man himself is in there. Salt Bae has 19 restaurants; I wonder how business will be doing when he’s somewhere else.
Here is the thing. Some metals are more reactive than others. Never try to eat with brass cutlery. Your dinner will taste awful. Stainless steel is great. And then there is the least reactive metal of all: gold. Foods wrapped in gold will literally have no taste, at least initially. As strange as it sounds, I love my food to taste like something. That’s why I decided to get mine from Kebab Kid.
It was opened by a Greek Cypriot couple, Cos and Yanni, in 1976, then acquired by the current owners, the Hatch-Barnwells, a decade later. They haven’t changed anything except to add a few dishes. It is now run by their son Charles who attributes the new recipes to his Indonesian mother. It’s a cult takeaway, especially among London taxi drivers, which naturally means you’ll find customer reviews online saying that’s not all. This is all that.
Start with the garlic fried chicken wings, the meat cut from the bone to curl up for easy access. Have the cumin falafel. The shoulder of lamb and the chicken shawarma are prepared daily, marinated and then broiled on a spit until they are a deep crispy brown. Any trimmed lamb fat helps fry hand-cut fries. The salads are crispy. Ask for a tzatziki smear. Don’t forget the pickled bird’s eye peppers for the punch. Make sure you get a triangle of their stuffed baklava, prepared for them according to a North African recipe by a former employee. Yours for £ 3, not £ 50.
Like Salt Bae, the woman who serves me here has a long knife. She doesn’t wait for me to pull out my phone before effectively using it to slice meat. She also sprinkles salt on the kebab of a shaker, like a normal person who doesn’t think of Instagram. I eat the wings and the first kebab in my neighbor’s car. Marc has been trying to hear me for years and I understand why. He and his wife Elvira come here every Valentine’s Day to eat kebabs in the car, because the romance is not dead. I can feel the love. I can also smell Marc de Vimto’s can. He is only my neighbor; I did not raise him.
We take another kebab at Nusr-Et and I set the table for my grand gesture. In my more benevolent moments, I wonder if Mr. Salt Bae doesn’t really have the last word. Unlike billionaire Sultan of Brunei, owner of the latest Dorchester restaurant scandal, he didn’t start a rich man. He comes from a poor working-class family. Now he’s rinsing the rich and the stupid. It could almost be inspiring.
There is a 1976 trial on the End of Empires by the fabulously appointed General Sir John Glubb who teaches here. He postulates that empires easily go from wealth to decline and then collapse. Sitting at my picnic table holding one of the best Kebab Kid’s, I wonder if we’re wobbling now. After all, in addition to not tasting anything, all that gold leaf will pass directly through the body. So let me leave you with this picture: Salt Bae customers the next morning come down from the throne, look down and find that all their money bought them is a bunch of shimmering poop.
Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley in Birmingham has opened a kebab shop in Manchester. Its One Star Döner bar is part of the Escape to Freight Island food market in the city’s Mayfield district. The business, based on Carter’s Berlin street food experiences, began during the lockdown, when the restaurant was closed. The skewers are made with Cornish lamb and Tamworth White chicken and are wrapped in pide from a Turkish bakery in Manchester. Visit escapetofreightisland.com.
Welsh restaurateurs Phill and Deb Lewis, who already have a group of pizzerias in South Wales, have now opened Kindle, a sustainability-focused small plate restaurant in Cardiff. It is located on the site of an old caretaker’s house in Sophia Gardens and all seating is outside under covered pergolas. Blankets and hot water bottles are available. Chef Tom Powell, formerly of the Walnut Tree near Abergavenny, offered a short menu that included celeriac bravas, field quail and collard greens with charcoal roasted onions. TO kindlecardiff.fr.
And another sign of how we took comfort in the dark days of 2020 lockdown: Pizza and takeout delivery company Papa John’s reported revenue up nearly 30% to 94 , £ 9million and operating profits up 200% from £ 2.6million to £ 8million. . During the period, they opened 20 new stores bringing the chain to 467 locations in the UK. See papajohns.co.uk.