Star Gemüse Kebap Warthestraße

Guten Tag, Döner Fans! Dr Döner is back in Berlin, and all is well in the world once more. No longer must he choke down the shrivelled offerings of Amsterdam’s lacklustre Eetsalons! Even as I type this, my fingers are still moist from the inaugural kebab of this particular Berliner sojourn – my first decent, solid Berliner kebab in too long a time! Let me lay the scene. I had woken up in a comfortable apartment down a quiet street somewhere near Leinestraße in Neukölln – readers may remember it as the setting of a previous blog post. As lunch approached and duty called, I came in from the balcony and went out to hunt down the latest döner developments in the local area. It was not long before my eyes alighted on a lead. There, on a little island next to Hermannstraße, was the unmistakeable silhouette of a kebab hut. Yes indeed! It was a Gemüsedöner stand, and it had a picture of a chicken on it. I stepped onto its green plastic matting and prepared to place my order.

You can tell by the picture of the chicken that this is a place of quality

Perhaps I am overly full of myself. But it is always something of a disappointment when kebab sellers are not as pleased to see me as I am to see them. The man who was lurking inside Star Gemüse Kebap looked, as they say, as if he had just licked piss off a nettle. He spent several agonising moments slopping spicy sauce from a bucket into a serving receptacle before deigning to acknowledge my presence. He did not speak. He took my order with a look. My dürüm was prepared in silence. He spoke only to ask me what sauces I wanted (garlic and spicy). He could not have looked more bored if he tried. Maybe he did not enjoy his job. Perhaps someone had fouled on his doorstep this morning, or stolen his favourite mug. In any case, we did not share that special bond that sometimes exists between kebab-maker and kebab-eater. He handed over my dürüm. I paid my 3,30 Euros, and departed.

"Look at the size of that thing!" The kebab dwarfs the plate.

I got back to the flat, went onto the balcony, and my disappointment was instantly dispelled as I bit into my dürüm. The kebab-seller’s bored outer appearance had clearly been a skilful mask used to disguise the love with which he had crafted that kebab. It was a delicious meal – the chicken meat was succulent, the spicy and garlic sauce complemented it beautifully, and the salad was fresh. A sprinkling of feta and a squirt of lemon gave it a special zing. As I wolfed it down, I forgave the kebab-seller for his questionable service – there is no need to be a people-person when one is creating such high standards of art, Döner Fans! The moment was perfect as I sat munching on the balcony, marred only by someone hawking noisily in the street below. I reclined upon the balcony-chair. The first kebab of the Berlin tour had been devoured. Dr Döner was back in the game!

The tinfoil is unfurled to reveal the meaty interior

Results

Service: 2/5 (sour)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (fine)

Price: 4/5 (good)

Taste: 4/5 (very tasty)

Photographs by Dr. Döner

Cafe Pera – 57 Elm Row, Edinburgh

Hello Döner Fans! I hope this finds you well. On a sunny day this week, Dr Döner was back in Edinburgh again. Had he gone for the Festival? Was he there to soak up cutting-edge theatre and stand-up comedy? No, he was not. He was there to sample a new Turkish restaurant called Cafe Pera, which has recently opened on Elm Row. And he was in for a treat!

Pera, as we all know, is the historical name for a formerly European mercantile quarter of Istanbul, now known as Beyoğlu, on the Western side of the city. It was renowned for its nightlife and illicit delights and, to an extent, still is. The delights at Edinburgh’s Cafe Pera were thankfully very licit, and my companions and I were lured in by the array of delicious meze on display in the front window. Keen to try everything, we ordered the mixed meze platter to share, and I followed this with the Pera mixed grill.

The bountiful spread of the Cafe Pera mixed meze for three

The meze platter offered a vast selection of tasty morsels, both familiar and unfamiliar. It boasted cacık (tzatziki), turşu (pickled vegetables), various creamed and spicy vegetable and nut pastes, and a basket of freshly baked pide (bread). It was a generous platter, and the flavours were good. Our appetites were well whetted for the grilled kebabs that were to follow. And we were served by an absolute gent named Savaş, who diligently checked on us throughout the course of our meal to ensure that everything was satisfactory. He brought us our main course and we tucked in.

Cafe Pera mixed grill

The mixed grill consisted of chicken şiş (cubed, skewered meat), lamb şiş, and lamb köfte (skewered mince) nestled on a bed of bulgur with a small portion of çoban salatası (shepherd’s salad), which is tomato, cucumber, onion, chilli pepper and parsley. The meat was tender and juicy. The chicken in particular was done to perfection, and nicely spiced. Best of all was the lamb köfte, however, whose mix of herbs gave it a full and rich flavour. In all, it was magnificent.

Unfortunately, Dr Döner had pigged out on the meze. Yes, he had stuffed himself beyond the point of redemption. It was a study in gluttony. The result was that, when the kebab arrived, he was unable to finish it all by himself, and was forced to leave a piece of lamb şiş and half a piece of chicken. If anyone thought that this faux pas would go unremarked, they were wrong. Savaş looked anxious as he lifted my plate and asked why I hadn’t finished. I gushed that it had been delicious but that I was too full and had had to leave a small portion of it. He went away. But then he came back. Words had been had in the kitchen, and he wanted to know if the meat had not been good. I offered my most profuse flattery, saying that it had all been excellent, but that I had eaten far too much of the equally delicious meze to stuff in any more. He looked relieved. The crisis had been averted.

Lamb Kavurma (stew), eaten by a fellow diner, and equally delectable

When it came to order coffees, my cover was finally blown. I asked Savaş for a Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee) and asked for it orta şekerli (medium sweet). His eyes lit up. He asked me in Turkish where I had learned these words. And then the whole tale came out. I regaled him with my time in Istanbul, and he beamed as he replied that he was from Istanbul himself, from Üsküdar on the Eastern shore. To prove our new camaraderie, he brought me my coffee in a special cup, not the one he gives the tourists! And the coffee was perfect, everything was perfect. When the time came to pay the bill, he brought us a dish of Turkish delight.

‘What is name?’ he asked cheerfully, proffering the dish.

I told him my name.

‘No,’ he said, pointing to the Turkish delight. ‘What is name of this?’

‘Oh…’ I said, red-faced. ‘It’s called lokum.’

‘Yes!’ he beamed. ‘Turkish delight is lokum!’

When we left, Savaş shook my hand for so long that I thought he wouldn’t let go, and invited us to come back later for raki. And that, Döner Fans, proves once more the undeniable friendliness of the Turkish people. They are some of the world’s best hosts: conscientious and welcoming to a fault. We departed, promising to return once again, satisfied with our food and with the service, having enjoyed a very good, and very hospitable, afternoon. Cafe Pera gets the Dr Döner seal of approval!

Results

Service: 5/5 (impeccable)

Atmosphere: 5/5 (very nice, with Turkish lamps and art deco photography)

Price: 5/5 (very good)

Taste: 5/5 (delicious)

To Recap: What Have We Learned?

“cacık” [ja-jick] (Turkish tzatziki)

“turşu” [toor-shoo] (pickled vegetables)

“pide” [pee-day] (flat bread)

“şiş” [sheesh] (cubed, skewered meat)

“köfte” [köf-teh] (mince, either in meatball-form or on a skewer)

“çoban salatası” [cho-ban sa-la-ta-suh] (shepherd’s salad)

“Türk kahvesi” [toork kah-fe-see] (Turkish coffee)

“orta şekerli” [or-ta sheck-er-lee] (medium sweet)

“lokum” [low-come] (Turkish delight)

Photography courtesy of Ms. I. McQueen

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.

Imbiss Balli, U-Bhf Leinestraße

Balli kebab. A gorgeous sight.

What’s this? Dr Döner has been back to Berlin again? Is he not burnt-out by this high-octane lifestyle? Well, Döner Fans, the fast lane is where Dr Döner can be found, and so it was that with nary a care I boarded the Deutsche Bahn Intercity on a wet morning in Amsterdam and shot over to Berlin in a matter of stress-free hours. Or at least, that was the plan. Life, as you may know, is nothing if not consistent, and the so-called direct train turned into four trains, and a two-hour delay. What! This isn’t the glamorous jet-setting life of Europe’s most in-demand kebab reviewer! Perhaps not. But all things have an upside if you look really hard at them, and I suppose these detours gave me a chance to hang out for a bit in the transport hub that is Bad Bentheim, and use the high-tech toilets at Deventer train station, which I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to enjoy. Never heard of these places? Neither had I! And so, with furious strokes of my pen, I filled out another Deutsche Bahn Fahrgastrechte-Formular to claim my measly compensation.

Ja ja, Deutsche Bahn...

But enough of my petty grumbling! That, surely, is not what you tuned in for. Let me begin my tale on the evening of Saturday 25th April, when I finally disembarked in the warm evening glow of Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. My ultimate destination? U-Bhf Leinestraße, in the vicinity of which lay a housewarming party with my name on it. For who, Döner Fans, who would not wish for their humble home to be festively broken in by none other than Dr Döner himself? It is a rare honour indeed. In any case, the way there was long, and while changing trains at Alexanderplatz, I stopped for twenty minutes in the underpass to visit an old friend. Yes, you may remember the inaugural kebab of this very blog, almost three years ago. From that same vendor I purchased a splendid döner, and munched it with gusto at one of the high tables nearby, watching the flow of human traffic as the Berliners went about their Saturday evening business. It was a fine kebab, a delightful kebab. A definite 5/5 for taste on this occasion. However, that is not the kebab I wish to tell you about, Döner Fans. No, let us move on…

Blast from the past. How youthful we all once were...

I shall skip the details of the housewarming party. Suffice to say, the flat was well and truly ‘eingeweiht’. Anyway, once the fumes had cleared the next day, myself and one of the other survivors felt in need of sustenance, and so we took ourselves out into the mean streets of Neukölln in search of kebab. The owner of the newly-christened flat (in whose company I found myself) suggested trying Balli, the döner snack place right next to Leinestraße U-Bahn station, so there the two of us went. It was a grey, muggy day as we approached the counter, and the two gentlemen inside the hut seemed vaguely annoyed at having been disturbed. They slapped closed their magazines and leant out over the counter to take our orders.

All the best kebab shops have their own bus stop.

I placed my classic order, namely a döner with garlic and chilli sauce, and all the salad apart from the red cabbage. It was duly slapped up and handed over. There was no banter, no cheery wink. It was a business transaction, pure and simple. The two of us then went back to the flat and ate our kebabs on the balcony overlooking the street, where the lingering odours of the party were less pungent. All in all, it was quite a pleasant kebab, and the fresh air and leafy surroundings made it all the better. The meat was not the juiciest, but it was a solid standard döner, such as one might demand and expect from a place like Balli. The veg was fresh, and the bread was soft on the inside, and crusty on the outside. It was a marked improvement on Amsterdam’s Eetsalon De Mol.

A tasty döner from Balli, consumed on a leafy Neukölln balcony.

The rest of my visit proceeded in a similarly pleasant vein. Over the following two evenings I took the time to revisit some old classics in my favourite Berlin hotspots, making sure to eat the Mercimek soup at Wedding’s Dedecan restaurant. I was pleased to see the same grumpy gent working there as before, casting his cynical gaze over the bustle of Luxemburger Straße from behind his döner-hatch. He had the grim, set jaw of a man who had seen the troubles of the world, who would never smile in your face, but who would volunteer tirelessly and uncomplainingly at a soup-kitchen by night, while working overtime at the kebab shop to support his family. His look of contempt as he made me my Mercimek Çorbası belied his heart of gold.

Results for Balli

Service: 3/5 (unenthused)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (standard)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 4/5 (tasty)

Post Scriptum. Alas, all good things come to an end. As I mooched around at Hauptbahnhof two days later, waiting for my train home to Amsterdam, I was to be the victim of a final parting shot from Deutsche Bahn. I will refrain from too much detail, but I went to visit the facilities at the grand-sounding ‘WC-Center’, where I was charged a 1 EURO fee for the privilege. A whole Euro! But all was not as it seemed. Upon ramming my filthiest Euro with bad grace into the machine, I was rewarded with a 50 cent coupon, redeemable upon my next visit. Thank you, Deutsche Bahn! Now I have a reason to come back and visit the WC-Center again. Rest assured, I will make it worth my while.

The WC voucher. Showing the exact date and time of the visit, presumably so that one can reminisce.

Photographs courtesy of Dr Döner and Mr B. Lawson.

Eetsalon De Mol – Molsteeg 3

Hello Döner Fans. Those of you who frequent the city centre of Amsterdam may have stumbled across the diamond-in-the-rough that is undoubtedly Eetsalon De Mol. If the buskers, pickpockets and selfie-stick-wielding tourists of Dam Square have drained your energy, then why not take a gander to the back streets of the local area? Perhaps the throbbing masses have driven you onto the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal behind De Nieuwe Kerk. Perhaps from there, ducking between the trams, traffic and cyclists, you’ve found your way to the mouth of Molsteeg alley, and are peering into its seedy depths towards the dim lights of Spuistraat beyond. Perhaps you are lost. Perhaps you are desperate. But wait: what’s this? Your eyes alight upon a beacon of hope in this urban desert: the cosy red and yellow sign of Eetsalon De Mol grabs your attention, and like Alice in Wonderland you descend into the rabbit-hole in search of meaty treats. And meaty treats, indeed, there will be. I bring you: Eetsalon De Mol!

Eetsalon De Mol does not discriminate. There is no type of fast-food they will not warm up for you.

Dr Döner has been known to roam the area around Spuistraat and Singel at times, so it is no surprise that his path crossed that of De Mol sooner rather than later. On this occasion, I was hungry. It had been a taxing day. Work had been done. It was now time for sustenance. Gathering a pair of handy eating companions, I plunged into the eerie gloom of Molsteeg alley and opened the glass door that led into the Eetsalon’s inner clutches. We stood and looked over the room within.

The slick, wipe-down chic interior of Eetsalon De Mol.

What strikes you most about the interior design when you enter is the innovative two-tier layout. This involves a lower front dining area and a raised back zone which houses the counter and the food preparation area. Ascending the steps to the counter, you might feel as if you are approaching some higher authority, like the altar in a secretive temple dedicated to the prehistoric gods of food. Once at this heady altitude you must place your order, before being banished back down to the lower chamber below, to await your kebab.

I had ordered a ‘broodje-doner’, or a döner in bread. As we sat there taking surreptitious photographs, it was observed that there was no log of döner meat on display behind the counter. Did this mean that there was some state-of-the-art larder out of sight, whose temperature was strictly regulated, in which the prime döner-meat was housed and prepared? Alas no, the meat was in a sack under the counter. It was taken out and lovingly tossed onto the hot-plate, where its transformation from flaccid grey to crispy brown was meticulously controlled by the moustachioed chef who had taken our orders. We waited. The tension mounted. The chef asked if I wanted chilli and garlic sauce. I said yes. Time passed. Eventually the chef called down to us that our food was ready. We took our parcels and departed. The glass door swung shut behind us, and we were back in the real world.

A selection of garlic sauces, and Dr Döner’s ear.

We took our food to a place of safety, and warily unwrapped the tinfoil that enfolded our food. I have to say, my döner was not the greatest success story to come out of Amsterdam. Most of the filling was OK as it oozed across the tinfoil, but the bread was too well-fired and brittle, and failed to hold its contents together. I was already predisposed to dislike this döner, since the price (though I can’t remember it exactly) had seemed a little high for such a small meal. Nonetheless, I ate my döner to the last mouthful, though without gusto. My companions, who had ordered other things, were less disappointed. The ‘patat oorlog’ was especially nice, for instance. Indeed, I had been warned in the past that an Eetsalon is not an appropriate place to buy kebab since it caters more towards the Snack-market which is popular in the Netherlands. Maybe if I go back to Eetsalon De Mol a second time, I will try some of its other fare. However, I think not. Dr Döner and De Mol have parted ways.

The bready clam is prised open to reveal its meaty pearls.

Results

Service: 3/5 (fine)

Atmosphere: 2/5 (plasticky)

Price: 2/5 (seemed a bit much)

Taste: 2/5 (not the best)

Photography courtesy of Messrs. M. Koopmans and C.J. Hudson

Kebab Quotes Part II

Readers have been requesting another round-up of all the famous kebab quotes that have been collected since the last trawl through current affairs and popular culture. It’s almost unbelievable how often kebabs have been on the minds of prominent figures, or featured on the pages of well-known literary classics. And yet when you look, the evidence is there. Do feel free to send in any of your own quotes that you have overheard, Döner Fans. They might even make it onto the blog.

“The evidence available at the time suggested that the kebabs could be ready and delivered in under 45 minutes.”

-Tony Blair

 

“Independence will make kebab-shop owners better off not just in Scotland, but in the rest of the UK.”

-Nicola Sturgeon

 

“An evening without kebab is a bird without wings.”

-Salvador Dali

 

“All you have to do is eat one true kebab. Eat the truest kebab that you know.”

-Ernest Hemingway

 

“Red cabbage in a kebab?? I had rather chop this hand off at a blow, And with the other fling it at thy face.”

-William Shakespeare, Henry VI

 

“The position of the kebab in the Geographical Pivot of History is well known.”

-Halford Mackinder

 

“Greece’s future in the Eurozone is dependent on its capacity to maintain its kebab output.”

-Angela Merkel

 

“You look foreign, do you make kebabs?”

-Prince Philip

 

“Frodo! You must cast the kebab into the fires of Mount Doom. Only then will Middle Earth be saved.”

-Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings

Sir Halford 'Big Macka' Mackinder. Geopolitician and kebab enthusiast.

 

One Night in Berlin – Servet’s Original Gemüse Kebab

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.

The German transport system - a thing of legend.

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.

U-Bahnhof Wedding: Berlin's most up-and-coming district.

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.

Luxemburger Straße: sometimes termed 'the kebab highway', sometimes 'the axis of döner'.

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 announces its presence with a classy moving neon sign.

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.

Don't mention the war! Politics and kebabs are often intertwined.

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!

Results

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

Bakkerij Kara Fırın, Molukkenstraat 145

Greetings, Döner Fans. I write this with the sauce still dribbling from my fingers, as I have just finished eating a quite delightful dürüm. Let me lay the scene. I had been returning from a hard day in the centre of Amsterdam, the weather was cold, and the light was fading. In a stroke of ill fortune, events had conspired to prevent me from having any lunch, and as a result I was desperate for sustenance. While charging down Molukkenstraat after getting off my tram, my eyes espied the lights of Bakkerij KARA FIRIN – an establishment I have walked past numerous times, but whose wares I had never sampled. Fogging the window with my ravenous breath, I gazed in upon the display of breads and pastries, and above all upon the twin logs of rotating meat glistening against the warm glow of the hot-plates. Like two pillars of joy, out of which seeped the greasy nectar of the gods. I rushed inside and placed my order.

Bakkerij Kara Firin glimpsed from across Molukkenstraat.

The décor inside was basic and utilitarian. I admit I did not have high hopes for the meal. But I ordered a lamb dürüm nonetheless with all the trimmings. The service was business-like – this was of course a daytime bakery, and not some dodgy late-night joint catering to ne’er-do-wells and the like. As such, my bread was placed in one of the traditional arched ovens at the back of the shop to be properly warmed. As it bathed in the smoky glow of the oven, I looked at the selection of options arrayed before me: as far as I could tell, there were only two types of sauce, and the only salad choice was iceberg lettuce. When I asked for ‘everything’ to be added to my dürüm, these were what I got. I paid up and departed with my feast.

The kebab-autopsy under way.

Once back in Döner HQ I unwrapped my dürüm to find that it had cooled a little during the walk. I was ready for a disappointment. But then, as I bit down into it, a wave of flavour overcame me and my doubts were swept aside. Each sliver of meat was moist and packed with a subtle spiciness that prickled on the palate. The combination of hot and herbal sauce complemented the meat beautifully, and the lettuce provided a background freshness while remaining unobtrusive. I think that this is probably the closest I have found to the type of dürüm you can get in Istanbul. In any case, the tastes transported me back to the rickety streets of Beyoğlu and Galata where my love for the humble kebab was first born. My only complaint is that the dürüm was small and over far too soon. Yet, while it may not have compared to Kaplan’s giant dürüms in terms of quantity, where for the same price (3,50€) you can get something the size and girth of your forearm, this innocent dürüm from Bakkerij Kara Firin more than made up for that with its authentic taste. Bravo, Bakkerij Kara Firin! Dr Döner is a fan.

Results

Service: 4/5 (normal for a bakery, I suppose)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (fine)

Price: 3/5 (fairly standard)

Taste: 5/5 (very tasty)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner.

VU Döner Boelenlaan

Good day, Döner Fans. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Recently, while on business at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) here in Amsterdam, I was lucky enough to partake of a very passable döner. What was Dr Döner doing at the Vrije Universiteit, I hear you ask? What would a respectable academic such as himself be doing at Amsterdam’s second-best university? Well as it happens, Dr Döner was giving a talk for prospective postgraduate students interested in beginning a PhD in Kebab Studies (my own career background). I will be honest with you, I was not that impressed with the talent on offer. But I shall consider their thesis proposals nonetheless. Anyway, all of this is beside the point, because it was after this business was concluded that an accomplice and I headed out to the kebab stall we had seen on our way over. For those of you unfamiliar with the VU, this stall is located on a little square next to Boelenlaan tram stop. It’s easy to find.

The ravenous hordes gather around their wounded prey.

We fought our way through a veritable horde of hungry döner-munchers to place our orders. A döner cost 3,50€ so we ordered one each. Given the size of the crowd, the service was efficient and business-like, and the two gentlemen inside the kebab van set briskly to work. I was pleased to see them using traditional Turkish pide bread for their döners, rather than the mass-produced buns you sometimes find in less salubrious establishments. They also had a large pile of tempting lahmacun stacked up on display, so you could tell that they were serious about their food. The only slightly off-putting element was the colour and texture of the rotating log of ‘lamb’ döner at the back of the van, which was a particularly greasy shade of grey. To be honest, it did not look a lot like meat. But we ordered it anyway.

The kebab, illuminated by the soft light of a lamp post.

We ate our döners while marching in the direction of Amsterdam Zuid station. The evening was cold. The walk took us through a district of high-rise offices and banks, looking something like Amsterdam’s version of Canary Wharf. Indeed, we passed by a bar which was hoaching with bankers and business-types. Anyway, we ate as we walked, and the kebab itself was really rather pleasant. The meat was tasty in spite of its appearance, and the salad was fresh and crispy. There was even some red onion in it, which as I’ve said before, is always a sign of a classy kebab. The only annoyance was the fact that the sauce had been added to the bread first, with the result that most of the filling had no sauce on it until you got to the very bottom, when you were left only with some very saucy bread. It was a messy end to an otherwise enjoyable kebab. Satisfied, I discarded the remains of my saucy bread and, having thus eaten our fill, we mosied into the bar in the hope of spending an equally saucy evening.

Results

Service: 4/5 (very efficient)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (bustling)

Price: 3/5 (standard)

Taste: 4/5 (very nice)

Photographs courtesy of Mr M. Koopmans.