London will gain a ‘posh’ kebab shop on Friday, when Chifafa opens in Clerkenwell.
It marks a turning point for the dirty doner, which is virtually all that remains of London’s seedy food underbelly as the capital’s street grub gets slowly gentrified.
Already we have more upmarket burger joints than you can shake a bottle of homemade sundried tomato relish at, and advances on fried chicken (Chicken Shop, Chicken Liquor, Rita’s), hot dogs (Bubbledogs, Dirty Bones), pizzas (Pizza Pilgrims, Homeslice) and fish & chips (The Fish & Chip Shop, Kerbisher & Malt) are well underway.
The kebab pioneers are Nick Green and Matthew Kershaw, who were inspired by a kebab stand they saw in Berlin which is so loved by locals that it has long queues from morning to night — enticing a much more diverse customer base than just the intoxicated.
They’re working with Ben Maschler — Action Against Hunger organiser and son of Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler — and have enrolled managers from Pizza Express and the Gordon Ramsay Group to bring Chifafa together.
If you’re wondering about the name, it comes from the Nat King Cole song Frim-Fram Sauce, in which it signifies something magical or out of the ordinary — something the kebabs certainly will be.
Green told us: “We are indignant about the decline of the noble kebab and its descent into ridicule. We are trying to change perceptions of the kebab by focusing on fresh, healthy, ethically-sourced ingredients. We aim to make them acceptable as a lunchtime meal as opposed to something you only want eat when you are half-cut on the way home from the pub.”
There won’t be any rotating elephant legs at Chifafa, but rather a selection of grilled fillings served in bread with salad and homemade chilli sauce. A homage to the doner, if you will. Meat options include: slow-cooked lamb shoulder with feta, mango pickle and dill tahini yoghurt; chicken thighs marinated with lemon and garlic; and ethical British veal shoulder with fresh mint and dill tzatziki. Vegetarians can also get in on the action, with falafel and halloumi kebabs available.
The restaurant will offer space to sit down as well as serving kebabs to go, and will also offer beer. Prices will range from £5.50 to £8.40 for a kebab.
This isn’t the first attempt to make the kebab gastro. Roti Chai ran a pop-up called Kebab Rehab in the summer serving a selection of Indian kebabs, while at The Palomar in Soho a deconstructed kebab is on the menu. And who could forget Giles Coren's review of E Mono on Kentish Town Road?
If you want to sample what Chifafa has to offer, get to Clerkenwell on Friday (28 November). To mark its opening, the team will be giving away 500 free kebabs — that’s 250 at lunchtime from 1pm and 250 in the evening from 6.30pm.
Chifafa is at 45-47 Clerkenwell Road, EC1N 5RS. It will be open from 11.30am-11pm Monday-Saturday.
Also see our pick of London's best existing kebab shops and for other kebab-centric dining, take a look at our round-up of the best Turkish restaurants on Green Lanes.