Brave Enough To Bag A Kebab?

Joanna Biddolph discovers the delights of late night eating at Elias

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Elias Lebanese Express is at 31 Turnham Green Terrace


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I’d only had a snack – half an avocado pear – before heading off one recent evening to meet a friend for a catch-up over a glass of wine. A large glass of wine. But only one. So it was surprising that I felt so extraordinarily hungry – insatiably hungry, in that wine-soaked way – as we headed off for our homes.

What was in the fridge – that I could heat up in a nano-second? Nothing. Well, nothing that seemed right to fill the post-alcohol need for food – but I walked, without much of a swerve, past Chris’s fish and chip shop feeling proud to have overridden my more-often-than-not-absent will power.

And past Elias, the small Lebanese café a few doors along. Well done! And it looked so warm in there. And with such appealing comfort food, just right for soaking up the merlot. Remember that delicious stuffed aubergine? And the good houmous? Plus the chicken livers? (My life was whizzing past vividly). That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? On such a cold night?

So, back I walked. Something hot and spicy, that was what was needed. And kebabs, well they are quite healthy, aren’t they?

I’d never bought a kebab from Elias. My route home usually takes me past Andy’s so I’d sometimes drop in there. But Andy has closed (sadly missed by many) so it would be good to give Elias a proper try.

“Just a small shish kebab, please.” (And perhaps a pot of houmous, I thought, determined not to ask for it until the very end in case I managed to resist.) Sadly, with no lamb kebabs left all I could do was dither, staring blankly at the list of options.

“What’s the lamb sandwich?” I asked after what must have seemed like excessively drunken indecision. The cook behind the counter pointed to one of the two lozenges of meat cooking behind him.

“Oh, no. I don’t want doner,” I heard myself say somewhat snootily (it was the Chilean in me talking). “It’s not doner, madam, it’s fresh lamb and fresh chicken. Let me give you a taste.”

Gently put in my place, I tasted. Warm, succulent and richly spiced, it was utterly delicious – a perfect follow up to what now seemed like a magnum of wine swishing around inside my head and knees (does cold weather always exaggerate the effects of alcohol, I wondered?). “No onions, thank you. But perhaps some extra chilli sauce?”

It was better than Andy’s. Served much faster (I used to hate hanging around for the lamb to cook) there was one other big difference: the pitta bread was left whole, not split open, and rolled round the contents. It didn’t go soggy, there was no soaking through to the wrapping – and no consequent painstaking peeling-off in sliver-shreds while the whole thing went cold.

If you, like me (but unlike the Home Secretary), feel brave enough to buy a kebab after dark, don’t walk past Elias. With much more on offer than Andy’s ever had you, unlike me, can choose something other than the cliché of a late-night, alcohol-soaking kebab – with or without a police escort.


Joanna Biddolph

February 9, 2008