Head down to the basement beneath Maison Bab and you’ll see what looks like a traditional high-street kebab shop. Walk through the faux frontage, however, and you’ll find yourself in London’s (and quite possibly the world’s) only restaurant serving a kebab tasting menu.
Kebab Queen’s simple set-up sees a tiny space featuring blush pink curtains and cobalt-blue leather stools surrounding a chef’s table of just 10 seats. It’s a restaurant which throws you off centre, delicately straddling the fine line between serious dining experience and all-out parody.
The silly name hints at Kebab Queen’s sense of playfulness. Guests eat with their hands directly from the heated counter top, which is made from a bacteria-resistant material called Dekton. Clean freaks will be reassured to know that surfaces are wiped down between each course with an edible disinfectant that is essentially a blend of vodka and lemon.
The food is serious in style, but the lack of plates inspires messiness and fun – the staff actively encourage mopping up surplus sauce with your finger or letting juice drip down your chin.
Head chef Manu Canales explains each dish as he ‘plates’ it directly onto the counter and his creations are something to behold. The best thing we ate was the ‘doner risotto’, which is really a lamb jus risotto finished with classic kebab garnishes (think blobs of garlic and chilli sauce). It’s crowned with lamb’s tongue, which is shaved on top in mimicry of truffle shavings.
We also loved the melt-in-the-mouth duck slices, which are served with a crust of crispy Persian rice which you pull apart with your fingers.
The seven-course feast ends on a sweet note: milk buns which are filled with caramelised cream and topped with crème fraiche, providing the perfect hit of childish indulgence. The optional drinks pairing is also worth paying extra for, featuring excellent wines, port and even beer.
It would be easy to dismiss Kebab Queen as a gimmick, but Canales’ intense passion and creativity prove that this is no joke. His message is loud and clear – it’s time to start taking kebabs seriously.