Hello Döner Fans. Over the past month or so I’ve had a go at sampling a couple of Amsterdam’s best kebab vendors. I’ve tried kapsalon in its various forms and broadened my culinary horizons. After some gentle probing, Amsterdam has at last divulged its greasy treasures. The fact remains, however, that there is but one city which can claim the title of döner capital of the world, and it is undisputedly Berlin. Ah, Berlin. Kebab-lovers whisper its name in awed reverence; it is the holy city of the kebab-worshipping diaspora, to which we direct our dreams and prayers. A yearning to walk its streets once more had been building within me for some time, and so it was that I undertook the sacred pilgrimage to the Mother City. On a chilly January afternoon I boarded a Deutsche Bahn Intercity Express from Amsterdam Centraal and set off on my spiritual journey.
Now is neither the time nor the place to discuss my many experiences with Deutsche Bahn – Germany’s most talked-about service provider. I will not regale you with details of the time when my train was delayed by fugitives from justice fleeing across the tracks, nor of the time when a neighbouring train ploughed into a herd of migrating deer near Stendal and had to be evacuated into ours with the help of the Feuerwehr. These are stories for another time. Suffice to say I arrived on time at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and, a lump of emotion rising in my throat, I made my way to my former home of Wedding.
Wedding is Berlin’s most up-and-coming neighbourhood, and has been for the past two decades. In other words, it has kept us waiting. As I strode through the flotsam and jetsam of life’s cruel vicissitudes, which lay strewn across its pungent streets, I was reminded of the special place that Wedding will always have in my heart. A sleeping drunk here, a festering dog-turd there… The vibrancy of city life is all around. But I digress. There was of course a purpose to my visit. As it happens, a faithful friend and avid reader of the blog was celebrating his birthday, and as a special birthday treat he had requested the honour of eating a kebab with Dr Döner. It is the kind of treat that money simply cannot buy. Donning my döner-eating regalia, I gladly met him at Leopoldplatz and accompanied him to the döner joint of his choice.
Faithful followers of the blog will know that I have sampled many of the establishments that line Wedding’s famous döner highway, or Luxemburger Straße as it is also known. I was cheered to see them all doing brisk business that night. There was Kaplan, my stalwart friend; there was Baba Sultan whose köfte are a thing of legend; there was Dedecan Gemüsekebab, whose Mercimek Çorbası I’ve slurped down on many a rough Saturday morning; there was Pamfilya Ocakbaşı, whose set meals and reasonable prices have kept many Weddingers on their feet. Needless to say I sampled them all again during my brief stay. However, my companion that evening led me to an establishment whose wares I had not yet tried. His favourite döner joint had always been Servet’s Original Gemüse Kebab at Luxemburger Straße 33, so it was there that we went.
Servet’s Original Gemüse Kebab (or SOGK) has the slogan ‘Einmal essen, nie wieder vergessen’. Or, in English, ‘Once eaten, never forgotten’. A lusty threat if ever I’ve heard one! Preparing myself for an unforgettable experience, I ordered a dürüm while my companion ordered a döner. While our meals were being prepared, the birthday boy recounted some of his past experiences at SOGK, and I voiced my surprise at never having tried its wares before now, despite having lived so close by for so long. On hearing my accent, the döner seller behind the hatch suddenly demanded to know where I was from. ‘He’s from Scotland,’ my companion replied, ‘but he used to live in Turkey!’ ‘Oho!’ said the döner seller, ‘and did you ever go to Gallipoli?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘We smashed you at Gallipoli in WWI,’ said the döner seller gleefully. Then, to show that things were nonetheless fine now, he insisted that I fist-bump him before he handed me my dürüm.
Historical military defeats aside, the dürüm was actually quite enjoyable. We ate it as we walked down the streets of Wedding, and I can only hope that it met my companion’s birthday expectations. I recall the bread of my dürüm being quite doughy, but the filling was tasty and nicely spiced. A fully serviceable kebab if ever I saw one, and yet in a street as overflowing with kebab houses as Luxemburger Straße, I have to say that I would likely go elsewhere for my money. The kebab itself was nice, but I would still prefer a Kaplan or a Dedecan. This is of course entirely subjective, and other people will doubtless think otherwise. In any case, I had now completed my run of Luxemburger Straße by visiting the only kebab establishment that had not previously been featured on the blog. A milestone of sorts, I believe. It is a street I will no doubt return to again, whenever I next visit the city of Berlin. For now, though, business calls me back to Amsterdam. Farewell, Berlin! Dr Döner will see you again soon!
Service: 2/5 (questionable)
Atmosphere: 3/5 (bustling and vibrant)
Price: 3/5 (fine)
Taste: 4/5 (quite tasty)
Photographs taken by Dr. Döner and Mr. T. Richter