Ali Ocakbaşı Herengracht

Welcome back, Döner Fans. And welcome to the sixtieth post on the Dr Döner blog! Sixty posts in four years might not sound like a lot. But rest assured I have had far more than sixty kebabs in that time. (Often I bought them from places that I had already reviewed.)

And so, in honour of this small milestone, I thought I’d review one of the best ever Turkish restaurants that I have been to. Yes, you read correctly. This is a true giant of Turkish cuisine, a palace of mouth-watering meats and spices, with warm and welcoming staff and a beautiful, traditional interior. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been there. (It was certainly often enough for them to start recognising me – always a danger in the food-review business.) And so without further ado, I give you Amsterdam’s very own: Ali Ocakbaşı!

First of all, the word ‘ocakbaşı’ [o-jack-bash-eugh] is a Turkish word which literally means ‘top of the oven’. This refers to a traditional type of restaurant which specialises in meals that are grilled on open fiery coals. (I can feel myself beginning to salivate even as I type.) Amsterdam’s Ali Ocakbaşı is located on the corner of Herengracht and Utrechtsestraat, not far from Rembrandt Square, and is based on the original Ali restaurant in Istanbul.

A Turkish friend recommended Ali Ocakbaşı to me, and I am eternally grateful that he did. On stepping off the street, diners are greeted to a hearty ‘Hoş geldiniz!’ [hosh gel-din-iz] (welcome) by the cheerful staff. You can sit downstairs (where the service is usually at its heartiest) or in the upstairs gallery which offers a view over the canal and the street. (If you sit on the side facing Utrechtsestraat you can even have a glimpse into the ‘coffee shop’ opposite, from which I have seen one or two former colleagues sheepishly emerging.) In terms of drinks, it is traditional to have a crisp glass of Turkish Efes Pilsner, but a nice glass of red wine will also go well with the succulent meat dishes that you will soon be enjoying.

The entrance to Ali on the corner of Herengracht

One thing that I always have with my meal is a glass of rakı. This is the famed aniseed-flavoured drink known sometimes as ‘lion’s milk’, and it is served in a narrow tumbler with optional ice and water. Personally I like to fill up the tumbler with ice and add only a dash of water to make the raki turn cloudy, while maintaining the thick, milky flavour of this potent Turkish tipple. But be warned, Döner Fans: two or three of these cheeky little snifters and you will be well on your way!

Raki: fresh from the lion's teat

Starters are served from a traditional meze platter. There is a large array of choice, but I would personally recommend the çiğköfte [chee-keuhf-tay]. This consists of delicate patties of ground meat and spices, served with salad leaves and fresh lemon. The staff may try to tell you that the meat is raw. But don’t worry, I’ve always been fine afterwards. In any case, no doubt the raki kills off anything untoward. Your meze is served together with a complimentary basket of hot and freshly-baked Turkish puffy bread, which needless to say is also delicious.

Meze, Efes and raki. The makings of a good evening.

One peculiarity at Ali’s is that you are usually asked for your main course order only after you have finished your meze. However, the service is quick and usually you will not have to wait long. I can recommend three main course dishes that I have found to be of particular excellence.

  • The first is the kuzu şiş: this consists of succulent pieces of cubed lamb which are literally oozing with juices. These generous chunks simply melt in the mouth.
  • The second is the ali nazik: this consists of minced kebab and spices served on a bed of creamed aubergine. This was my regular Friday night treat back when I was living in Istanbul, and is a true meaty, creamy delight.
  • The third is the ali fıstıklı: this is ground meat and spices laced with shards of pistachio, which add an extra note of refinement to this kebab’s already tantalising set of flavours.

The kuzu şiş in the foreground, and the ali nazik in the background.

All these main meals are served with Turkish flat bread, a portion of Turkish bulgur, a minty rocket salad, and a grilled tomato and green pepper. All this is served on a spacious wooden board to accommodate this vast smorgasbord of culinary delights.

When I first started going to Ali, I found the portion sizes too large to finish. But with practice, this no longer became a problem. Copious servings of Efes and raki tend to help. The décor in the interior is rustic chic, and combines a home-cooking feel with stylish Turkish panache. But to be honest, the food is so good that they could serve it to me from a bucket in a shed and I would still recommend it.

A close-up of the ali mixed grill.

Be friendly to the staff. Attempt a few words in Turkish with them, if you can. I have been rewarded with free raki, Turkish tea, and coffee simply for throwing in the occasional phrase in Turkish. On one memorable occasion the mood was so jolly that we received a free serving of baklava on the house.

Complimentary baklava and Turkish coffee. This was a good day.

At the end of your meal, the only downside may be the bill. Yes, Ali Ocakbasi tends towards the expensive side. For a main meal you are looking at 22 or 23 Euros. However, it is Dr Döner’s editorial opinion that the price is worth it. I am yet to have a better Turkish meal than the fare that is served in Ali’s.

The price list. Just close your eyes and think of the meat.

The prime location of the restaurant also means that you are only a very short walk either from Rembrandt Square and the city centre, or the many traditional Dutch bars that are to be found along Utrechtsestraat (if the raki has not rendered you too legless). Ali Ocakbasi is somewhere I will be returning to. Give it a try if you’re ever in Amsterdam, Döner Fans! You won’t regret it.

Results

Service: 5/5 (warm and friendly)

Atmosphere: 5/5 (stylish but homey)

Price: 4/5 (pricey but well worth it)

Taste: 5/5 (maaşallah!)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner

Istanbul Plaza Halvemaansteeg

Bonjour, Döner Fans. Confusing as it seems, this blog post is brought to you from Amsterdam, not Brussels. Yes, last weekend I was back in the Dutch capital for both business and pleasure. I met some of my favourite people (plus a few extra), though the brevity of my trip meant that many old friends had to be left out. But I will be back again soon!

Anyway, a triumphal return without a kebab is like a morning without a dawn: barren. Many of you will know how I feel about Dutch kebabs. But on Saturday night on Rembrandt Square I was in for a pleasant surprise. A companion and I were squeezing our way through the heaving crowd of stoned tourists and drunk people in Halloween costumes, when my eyes were drawn to a gleaming sign. It said, in tasteful neon: “Istanbul Döner-Kebab Halal Food Shoarma-Falafel.” So all its focus-keywords were nicely covered.

The staff at Istanbul Plaza clearly let an SEO agency do their marketing.

Hypnotised by this feat of food-Tourette’s, I shakily drew forth my photography device and took a shot. And as I did so, a man who was leaning outside the shop immediately invited us in, his face aglow with welcoming delight. I had thought he was a customer happily digesting his food. But no, he was the welcome committee. I am always suspicious of shops and restaurants that employ someone to lure in passers-by. But we were hungry, so we went in anyway.

Under the neon glare, the craftsmen of Istanbul Plaza create their art.

The staff were clearly used to drunk tourists, and immediately tried to offer us everything on the menu, including a ‘crisp clean Heineken’ each. But I have tried Heineken before, so I said no. My dinner companion and I both ordered the Dürüm Döner, and they set about making it. As this was Amsterdam, there were only two sauce choices: samba and garlic. Salad was ‘alles erop’. There was something comforting in this bland predictability. If nothing else, it saved me having to order in French and embarrass myself.

A peek into the eye of the breaded sheath. With a manicured hand in the background.

The kebab was actually surprisingly good. I don’t know if it was just because I was very hungry, but something about it made it a lot tastier than the usual disappointing fare you tend to get in Amsterdam’s kebab joints. The meat was moist, the salad was fresh, the bread was nice, and the sauces were flavourful. As such, it is one of the few döner shops in Amsterdam that I can heartily recommend. Just try not to be talked into buying everything on the menu along with copious drinks, as the service did come across as slightly pushy.

I am pretty sure that the dürüm was meant to cost 4,95 EUR. However, when I handed over a 5 EUR note, there was no sign of my 5 cents change. I let it slide this time. I wished the proprietors ‘iyi akşamlar’ and we went back out into the Halloween-infested night. They called out ‘iyi akşamlar’ after us, despite probably not being Turks. But that is no doubt part of the mystery and delight at Istanbul Plaza.

The 4,95 EUR price on the menu is approximate.

Results

Service: 2/5 (geared towards people who are drunk and/or stoned)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (meh)

Price: 3/5 (normal for Amsterdam, but don’t expect to get your 5 cents change)

Taste: 4/5 (very tasty)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner

Kebab Huis Baran – Hoofddorpplein

This post is originally from October 2015, and is being posted for the first time today.

Hello again Döner Fans. Are things finally starting to look up? I don’t want to speak too soon, but it seems like they just might be. On a dark, autumnal evening this week I went to pick up the keys to my new abode – a glamorous apartment in the Zuid area – meaning that my sentence in purgatory at Amsterdam’s most affordable hotel might soon be over. Dr Döner is homeless no more! And yet, as if that were not good news enough, the trek back from the new apartment to the hotel was fortuitously punctuated by a delicious culinary detour. Alighting from the number 15 bus at Hoofddorpplein, I espied the glowing sign of Kebab Huis Baran. There were several people waiting inside – surely a good sign? I barged in and, on seeing that the place seemed to specialise in lahmacun, I ordered a lahmacun with Döner meat and salad.

Kebab Huis Baran: Exterior Shot

While waiting, I noticed that the menu boasted a number of rather questionable options. What, I ask you, is the justification for a dürüm with tuna and cheese? It certainly is not a dish I have ever seen served in the kebab houses of Istanbul. I started to wonder if I had made a wise choice in visiting this place. Happily though, the döner meat was in fact on display and looked fairly fresh as it stood erect in front of its heating plate. A quick glance showed that they served only chicken in this establishment. Only one young, burly man was working behind the counter, and he was jolly and efficient as he chatted to the customers, serving up huge portions of kapsalon to the people waiting in front of me. He had a hairy beard and a pony tail and gave off an air of good-naturedness. He cheerfully exchanged pleasantries with one customer in Turkish.

Dürüm with tuna and cheese? Surely a typo!

When it came to my turn to be served, we bantered in Dutch as he asked me which toppings I wanted. At least, I think we bantered. My Dutch is still rusty, so I did not really know what he was saying. But it was all cheery enough. He handed over the lahmacun, and then – I don’t quite know why, perhaps it was the good mood I was in – I also bought an Ayran just for the sheer thrill of it. I almost never drink Ayran. But today I fancied it. Altogether, the lahmacun and the drink cost 5,50 Euros. He offered me a separate carrier bag for the Ayran. I declined. Then I hurried off to my hotel to devour it all.

Life need not be depressing at the West Side Inn. No! You can bring in food from outside.

I don’t know quite what he did to it – I didn’t see all the toppings, as I was surreptitiously trying to photograph the menu at the time – but I have to say, and I do not say this lightly, that the kebab was absolutely scrumptious. It tingled on the tongue. The lahmacun was a delightful mix of soft and oven-fired crunchy, and the meat, sauces and salad were all moist, juicy and full of flavour. I was quite surprised at just how good it all was. Even the Ayran was delicious and helped to wash it all down in an authentic fashion. The upshot of this is that I would thoroughly recommend Kebab Huis Baran to anyone lurking in the vicinity of Hoofddorpplein. It is well worth a visit. So, as I lick the sauces off my fingers, I shall sign off and wish you a good week! Until we meet again, Döner Fans, take care!

Results

Service: 5/5 (nice and jolly)

Atmosphere: 4/5 (welcoming)

Price: 3/5 (fine)

Taste: 5/5 (delicious!)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner

Efem Delflandplein

The following is a post from October 2015 which, alas, I have only now got around to posting.

Greetings Döner Fans. If you’ve ever been to Delflandplein, after exhausting the delights of Albert Heijn and Lidl, you will no doubt have felt a little peckish and started looking around for something saucy to eat. And to your unmitigated delight, there on a corner of the square, you would no doubt spot the red neon sign of Efem Pizza en Döner, an establishment that does what it says. This, at least, has been my experience. Thus it was that on an unusually bright Sunday in October (i.e. today) I found myself drawn into the welcoming clutches of Delflandplein’s biggest culinary attraction.

What was Dr Döner doing on Delflandplein, I hear you ask? Well, things are in a continuous state of flux, and for one reason or another I am currently lodging at one of Amsterdam’s more affordable hotels, which finds itself a mere stone’s throw away from the famous square. Having nothing to do this Sunday other than drift between cafes and sniff out kebabs, I recalled having seen the lights of Efem glowing eerily the previous evening when I had been gathering my purchases at the nearby Albert Heijn. True, but not interesting. So today I went for lunch, forgetting that the clocks had gone back an hour during the night, with the result that it was only about 11am when I entered Efem and ordered a Broodje Döner and a Coke. Never mind. Anyway, the man behind the counter gave me a rather shifty grin as I placed my order, and asked me for 5 Euros for the whole meal. He then piled on the kebab meat, slathered on the sauces, and garnished it all with some diced tomato and cucumber, and a sprinkling of red onion. Red onion is always a good sign, Döner Fans. However, he did all this with a rather unpleasant sideways sneer towards me, which made me feel that I was in some way being royally shafted. I took my döner and coke over to a table and ate it, while the latest Turkish pop hits trilled in the background.

Note the red onion, Döner Fans. Red onion is a mark of class.

The döner was actually surprisingly good. For all that it was sandwiched within a rather plain bun, the meat was flavourful and the salad was fresh. The red onions certainly made a difference. The interior seemed fairly clean, despite a few rough-looking customers who eyed me over the top of their kebabs, and on glancing over at the counter I saw that the place also served more traditional Turkish fare such as Adana kebabs, lahmacun, and mercimek soup. All in all it was quite a pleasant meal. It was only when I left the shop and stepped back out onto Delflandplein that I noticed the sign outside the entrance which declared that, as a special Combi-Deal, a broodje döner and a coke cost only a mere 4,75. It was with mounting horror that I realised I had been screwed out of 25 cents. The infamy! No wonder the man had grinned at me, knowing that today he would be 25 cents the richer. No matter how good the kebab, this grim realisation left a bad taste in my mouth. No doubt I could have bartered him down. But it was too late now. Disgruntled, I stalked off into the depths of the Hoofddorppleinbuurt in the hope that a few strong coffees would allay my distress. Until next time, Döner Fans! Stay safe!

Photographic evidence which I will be using to press my case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Results

Service: 3/5 (performed with a sneer)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (clean and relaxed)

Price: 2/5 (twenty-five cents too many)

Taste: 4/5 (quite nice)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner

Döner Oostelijke Handelskade

Greetings Döner Fans. I hope this post finds you well on this wet Dutch weekend. Perhaps you have been enjoying the Amsterdam Dance Event / ADE. Perhaps you have not. Dr Döner, for instance, has had bigger fish to fry, namely the serious business of eating kebabs and finding a permanent place of residence. As it happens, I was out and about running my various errands near the Oostelijke Handelskade today in pursuit of both these goals, when a sign made out of neon yellow paper caught my wandering eyes. On it were written two of my favourite words in the English language: Döner Kebab. And it was stuck onto the side of a likely looking mobile wagon. What further encouragement did I need than this! I approached the hatch to place my order.

The irresistible siren call of the kebab

There was a man inside the wagon. A large man. A gentle giant, if you will. It had clearly been a slow day for he had his head ducked down and was reading the paper. And he seemed very pleased to see me. I ordered a dürüm from him and he cheerily set about putting it together. One pleasant surprise was the way he prepared the bread. A flat pide was placed in an oven, and a minute later it had inflated like a chapatti. He then piled on the meat, salad and sauces and wrapped it all up. It was only a hunch, but I had a feeling that it was going to be a rather good dürüm. I paid 3,75 EUR for it (a decent price in these parts) and took it back to my cave to eat it.

The wagon, viewed from the tram stop

Back in my temporary Döner HQ, I peeled back the tinfoil to reveal what looked likely to be a fine meal. And in many ways it was. The bread, which had been so interestingly prepared, lent the whole ensemble an extra layer of flavour. The meat was ok, though the salad felt as if it had been soaking in its own juices for perhaps a little too long. Still, it didn’t detract too badly from the overall taste. All in all it was a good meal. Perhaps the friendliness of the man who made it, combined with the modest price, caused me to look upon it more favourably than it deserved. But I have to say, for Amsterdam, it was very very all right. Worth a try if you’re ever passing by the Oostelijke Handelskade. That’s all for now Döner Fans! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The kebab is opened and begins to spill its secrets

Results

Service: 4/5 (nice and jolly)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (a halo of warmth on a wet day)

Price: 3/5 (good for Amsterdam)

Taste: 3/5 (nice bread)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner

Snackbar Nieuwe Vijzelstraat

Hello again Döner Fans. I hope this post finds you well. Last week, I was given the opportunity to enjoy two days of team-building activities at work. We built towers out of paper cups and straws, and acted out short skits depicting the company’s main values. I just about got through it without stabbing myself in the eye with one of the company pens. When Friday evening arrived, I took the first opportunity to rid myself of my new ‘team’, and went out to find a kebab. As luck would have it, I was in luck. Cruising down the Nieuwe Vijzelstraat towards Weteringcircuit, and still buoyed by my sudden freedom, I espied what looked like the perfect candidate lurking next to Café Mulder. Yes, hunched behind a skip was an establishment that felt no need to call itself anything grander than Snackbar. No family name, no allusion to any form of backstory or history – presumably the reputation of this establishment was such that one could simply say ‘Snackbar’ and others would know precisely where you meant. So, in anticipation of great things, I crossed the threshold and ordered a dürüm.

Snackbar! What do you mean "which" Snackbar?

The dürüm in fact turned out to be a lahmacun instead. An oversight I’m sure – the staff were speaking Arabic to each other and not Turkish. I sat on a plastic chair and waited for my food to be made. I was kept amused by an altercation that erupted between one of the staff and a group of irate and immaculately dressed Italian tourists who had been given the wrong sauce. My Italian is not what it used to be, but I believe there was some swearing. It all seemed good-natured though. Anyway, I was brought my lahmacun, stuffed with chicken meat, lettuce, herb sauce and samba (chilli sauce), and I unpeeled it from its tinfoil sheath and ate it. To be honest, it was not particularly good. The chicken was weird and flabby. The samba was spicy enough to distract me from the rest of the meal, but each mouthful which didn’t have enough samba on it tasted rather bland. So I ate it, paid my 4 Euros, and left. 4 Euros is probably OK for a stuffed lahmacun, I suppose, especially when the Snackbar was also selling a Broodje Döner for the same price. Confident that I had not been screwed financially this time (unlike in the neighbouring Lunchroom Etenstijd where I ate the previous Friday) I went back out into the bustling streets of Amsterdam ready for anything the weekend might throw at me. So do try the Snackbar if you dare, but do not expect great things. Until next time, Döner Fans! Have a good weekend!

A sneak peek inside the lahmacun, with a stray copy of De Telegraaf in the background.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fine, as long as you’re not Italian)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (plasticky)

Price: 3/5 (fine for Amsterdam)

Taste: 2/5 (not the best)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner

Lunchroom Etenstijd Nieuwe Vijzelstraat

Hello Döner Fans. Apologies for the despondent tone of my previous post. With any luck, things will be looking up soon. For instance, I find that eating a döner always helps. Unless, that is, the döner is bad. Today as I left my office after a hard day of kebab journalism, I strolled down the bustling thoroughfare that is Vijzelstraat, which runs from Muntplein down to Weteringcircuit. For those of you who aren’t au fait with Amsterdam’s geography, and who can recollect it only through a haze of brown smoke and red lights, the Weteringcircuit lies at a spitting distance from the Heineken Experience – which, I am told, is only an ‘experience’ in the same way that a colonoscopy is an experience. It was right at this bottom end of the Nieuwe Vijzelstraat that I espied something calling itself Lunchroom Etenstijd. This would seem to translate as Lunch Room Food Time (we all know Lunchroom should be two words). Which goes to show you that you can achieve a suitable name for a kebab shop without much thought, simply by shoving a bunch of semi-related nouns together.

Lunchroom Etenstijd proclaims its lack of imagination to the world.

Those of you who have been following the blog over the past months and years will know that I have not been overly impressed by Amsterdam’s assortment of kebab outlets. Therefore it was with no great expectation that I strode into the orange interior of the Lunchroom and ordered a Broodje Döner. ‘Alles erop?’ replied the man. ‘Ja,’ I said. And then I went to sit outside and wait for it to be brought to me. (These details are all true.) Anyway, I sat outside and he brought me the kebab on a plate with a fork, as well as two tubes of sauce, one creamy and one spicy, presumably because he’d forgotten to ask me what sauces I wanted. I suppose it showed a degree of trust on his part that I wouldn’t run off with his tubes (and I admit I was tempted). The plate was too small for the kebab on it, with the result that some of the meat fell off onto the table and went uneaten. I should make clear that this was the fault of the plate, and not due to my piggish eating habits.

The kebab writhes on its plate, while two tubes of sauce loom behind it.

The kebab was passable, I suppose, and by no means bad by Amsterdam standards. I chomped it down while watching the trams and then went inside to pay. The price for a Broodje Döner was 3,95 as clearly shown on the wall behind the counter; however, the serving man asked for 4 Euros. Being polite, I didn’t quibble. But I did hope that the 5 cents he screwed me out of would one day weigh heavily on his conscience. For 4 Euros, it was not the best kebab in the world. But then, I had not anticipated great things. Anyway, having satisfied my post-work hunger, I left the Lunchroom Etenstijd in no great hurry to return. The only thing that might draw me back to the Lunchroom is its propinquity to my work, meaning that it may manage to lure me in again in the future. We shall see. That’s all for now, Döner Fans! Enjoy your weekend!

Man overboard! Some excess meat went over the side.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fine)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (plasticky)

Price: 1/5 (I was robbed of 5 cents)

Taste: 2/5 (not the best)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner

Caland Döner and Snacks, Pieter Calandlaan

Hello Döner Fans. Please excuse the bitter tone of this post. Dr Döner is navigating one of those troughs in life which lend the human experience such spice. To put it another way, Dr Döner currently has no fixed address! Nothing gives you a better feel for a city’s myriad districts than tramping about it going to dismal flat viewings. And so, on his exciting quest to find an abode, Dr Döner has been tearing Amsterdam a new one while maxing out his public transport OV-Chipcard. That, I hope, explains why, yesterday evening, I was to be found lurking about near Amsterdam Lelylaan train station, trying to find an obscure address. I will not go into details, but the flat viewing did not work out. So it was that after disengaging myself I went out in search of a hearty dose of fat, calories and protein to get me back up on my perch. To my delight I happened upon: Caland Döner and Snacks!

A surreptitious shot of Caland Döner and Snacks which Dr Döner pap'ed from behind the safety of a tree.

This particular kebab emporium is called Caland Döner and Snacks presumably because it faces onto Pieter Calandlaan – but also, as the sharp-eyed among you might see from the photograph, onto Jan Smitstraat. Seemingly Pieter Caland trumps Jan Smit in this neck of the woods. Anyway…I went inside and ordered a Broodje Döner with all the salads and sauces (they only had creamy and spicy anyway). I was pleased to see that the döner meat was actually on display in this shop, as it rotated seductively against its rotisserie grill – something of a rarity in many Amsterdam establishments. However, the meat I received did not come from the rotating log, but rather from a container somewhere out of view. Nonetheless, I still ate it.

Saucy meat, fresh from 'the container'.

Exhausted as I was, the kebab was actually quite palatable. It was spicy and creamy in the right places, and the bread felt surprisingly fresh. I had paid a princely 4 Euros for it; however, a 4-euro-kebab it was not. Especially when places like Bakkerij Kara Fırın will make you a delicious dürüm for only 3,50 euros. Anyway, thus fortified, I went back out into the mean streets of Lelylaan and made a brisk exit via the metro (which was delayed). And so, Döner Fans, that is how Dr Döner disappeared once more into the moist clutches of the Dutch night, doomed to prowl the streets alone once more in search of accommodation. A shadow in the gloaming; a diamond in the rough. Until next time, take care of yourselves Döner Fans!

A close-up shot taken after working out how to use the zoom.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fine)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (nope)

Price: 2/5 (too expensive)

Taste: 3/5 (fine)

Photography provided by Dr. Döner.

Lahmacun at Damaris Festival

Greetings, Döner Fans. If you live in Amsterdam, then I hope you have managed to stay dry this weekend. Dr Döner sadly got drenched. While enjoying the musical offerings of such esoteric Dutch bands as Coco Bongo and the Bonfire Ranch of Love, Dr Döner and friends were caught in torrential rain with nowhere to hide. This aside, however, the day provided a highlight in the form of a very tasty lahmacun which was bought from a big yellow stall selling ‘Turkse Pizza’. During a lull in the music (but not in the rain) Dr Döner queued up and ordered a lahmacun (which was all they were selling) for the modest price of two and a half ‘munten’.

A gorgeous Dutch day in July: perfect for holding outdoor events.

Let me explain the ‘munt’ system. Money means nothing at these festivals – all transactions are handled in ‘munt’. You may trade in your regular, boring Euros for some hip and snazzy munten at ATM-like machines, for the highly questionable exchange rate of 10 for 28 Euros. Or, put simply, 1 munt = 2.80 Euros. I am unsure what rates they trade at on the international stock market. In any case, after some quick mathematics, this meant that 2.5 munten for a lahmacun worked out as 7 Euros, leaving me feeling like a bit of a munt myself.

Dr Döner: holding a lahmacun while disguised as a lahmac*nt.

Nonetheless, after choking back my bitterness, the lahmacun itself was actually very tasty. Not 7 Euros tasty, but still tasty. The pizza was soft and moist, the meat was flavourful, the salad was fresh, and the sauces added a delightful zing. It was a fine meal. I wolfed it down on the rain-lashed concrete concourse before huddling back into one of the tents where music was playing.

Close-up of a 7 Euro meal.

That is about all there is to say, really. Since the Damaris festival is over, you won’t be able to get any of their lovely lahmacun. However, I’m sure that in any place where the ‘munt’ is the dominant currency, you will be able to find something of a similar description. Just look for the big yellow van with the rugs in front of it, and the big sign saying Turkse Pizza. And remember to mortgage your house to free up sufficient funds.

The high prices mean that some festival-goers can only afford to wear bin bags.

Results

Service: 4/5 (friendly yet efficient)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (damp)

Price: 1/5 (eye-watering)

Taste: 4/5 (very nice)

Photography courtesy of Ms. H. Zuurman

Döner and Sandwich Home – Plantage Middenlaan 32

Greetings, Döner Fans. Few places have the brass neck to call themselves the ‘home’ of both the döner AND the sandwich, but the proprietors of Döner and Sandwich Home on Plantage Middenlaan seem to believe they’ve cornered the market in both respects. Having thrown down such a weighty gauntlet, it was but a matter of time before Dr Döner picked up the challenge. And so, yesterday evening, Dr Döner and his crack team of fellow kebab-munchers burst in on the scene and sampled their wares.

The first thing we noticed was that, despite a large seating area, Döner and Sandwich Home was devoid of customers apart from one man who was smoking outside. The staff seemed bemused at having been disturbed from whatever it was they’d been doing in the back room. I ordered a ‘dürüm döner’ from them for the price of 4,50 and the chef then disappeared to make it somewhere out of sight. Is that a good sign? Who can say. In any case, he returned with the dürüm after a while, and it was wrapped in tinfoil on a plate. I went to eat it at the tables outside, and only then realised that I had not been asked for my choice of salad or sauces. Who knew what surprises awaited me beneath the tinfoil sheath?

Watch out for thieves stealing your leftovers.

The two companions I’d brought with me spent a lot of time faffing around deciding what to order, and then their food took a long time to arrive. They claimed to have ordered dürüm, but were brought döner. Such are the perils of not ordering in Dutch, Döner Fans! You will not receive the best kebabs if you do not order in the local language. Anyway, after a minor altercation, we ate the food we’d been given.

It was a pleasant evening as we started to dine. The outdoor seating at Döner and Sandwich Home looks across the street towards the fences of Amsterdam zoo, known as Artis. As I munched my dürüm, it occurred to me briefly that the two establishments might be linked. Could Döner and Sandwich Home merely be a front for the zoo to dispose of its unwanted livestock? Were the sick giraffes smuggled across the street for an undignified end in the mincer? Surely not. In any case, the dürüm I’d been given was passable, and the salad turned out to be lettuce and cucumber, with a squirt of spicy sauce and garlic sauce to keep things moist, so all was fine. The meat however was a little overdone. The kebab was very average. We ate, and left.

The kebab: gazing into the eye of the storm.

Results

Service: 2/5 (confused)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (pleasant outside)

Price: 3/5 (normal for Amsterdam)

Taste: 2/5 (meh)

PS. I hesitate to mention this, but when looking up the exact address of Döner and Sandwich Home, I discovered a rival blog which had already reviewed it. It seems there is a Dutch-language site called ‘Kebabreporters’ (yes, all one word…) in which some absolute CHUMP who calls himself ‘Captain Kebab’, of all things, appears to be reviewing all the döner establishments in Amsterdam. They even sell their own ‘Kebabreporters’ T-shirts under ‘merchandise’, if you can imagine the temerity. Rest assured that this blog will never dirty its hands with such rude commerce, Döner Fans! If any of you see this ‘Captain Kebab’ out and about, give him a punch up the bracket from me. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!

Photographs courtesy of Mr C J Hudson.