What’s in a name? Over the years I have seen kebab houses bearing names with varying degrees of creativity. ‘Mustafa’s Gemüsekebab’ or ‘Kaplan Döner’ are both clear enough. ‘Mısır çarşısı’ is more evocative of distant places and exotic flavours. ‘Snackwagen’ boasts an instant cool. ‘Lunchroom Etenstijd’ on the other hand is about as crap as you can get. (‘Lunch room Food time’, I mean really…)
The proprietors of one particular döner establishment on Anspachlaan in Brussels city centre clearly wanted something more. They knew that their greasy corner of the döner market was bigger, better, grander than most. They needed a name to convey the pomp, the majesty of their premises. A name that would elevate them head and shoulders above the mere impostors of the kebab industry, and mark them out as the true masters of the meat-log rotisserie. And, I’m sure you will agree, they found just the right one. Mesdames et messieurs, I give you the sublime, the magnificent Sultans of Kebap!
To be honest, last Friday night, I didn’t even want a kebab. A companion and I were making our way home from a party. Neither of us was particularly hungry. But then across the street I saw that big red sign, bearing those three immortal words: ‘Sultans of Kebab’. Such a grand name leaves a lot to live up to. What palatial treats awaited us within? And I knew right there and then that I had to find out.
My expectations were raised high when I entered and saw not one, but TWO glistening logs of meat rotating like music-box ballerinas against the grill. When I heard the staff talking to each other in Turkish, I imagined that I was onto a winner. There were four of them, burly and uniformed behind the counter, ready to take our order. However, it soon became clear that the old adage remains true: too many chefs do spoil the broth. The four men spent most of their time arguing, bumping into each other, and getting in each other’s way. The overall impression was not one of well-oiled efficiency. As a final straw, I saw that their salad options included a huge trough of red cabbage, which as we all know has no place in a decent kebab.
Nonetheless, it was too late to turn back. Somehow the four of them conspired to make me a dürüm, which was then handed over. My dinner companion bought a portion of chicken nuggets, just to embarrass me. Things were about to get rowdy when one of the chefs realised I was photographing the interior of the palace. “Il prend des photos!” the cry went up. And it could have been the worse for Dr Döner, had the four of them not been unable to navigate their way out from behind the confines of the counter.
We ate our gains out on the street while walking home. Central Brussels is a strange place at 1:30am. It is mostly full of groups of drunken men roving the streets. It was not the most comfortable experience, especially since I was trying to stuff a dürüm into my face. The night was also bitterly cold. Which is why, I imagine, the staff at Sultans of Kebab had wrapped my dürüm up extra warmly. Whereas most kebab establishments will simply wrap their wares in paper, the four Sultans had gone the extra mile. My dürüm was draped in a two-tone cape of both paper and tinfoil, keeping it hot on the inside and cool enough to hold on the outside. Imagine! It still didn’t make up for the decidedly average nature of the kebab, though. I guzzled down the dürüm as fast as I could, for it was impeding my homeward journey. And then, with its remnant sauces strewn down the insides of some municipal bin, I set off through the testosterone-charged streets back to St-Josse. An eventful night, but an unremarkable kebab. Until next time, Döner Fans!
Service: 2/5 (resistant to being photographed)
Atmosphere: 3/5 (testosterone-charged)
Price: 3/5 (I don’t remember, but average)
Taste: 3/5 (meh)
Photography by Dr. Döner