Let us begin this story where all good stories begin, with the demolition of a load-bearing wall. Wait, what? Yes. The demolition of a load-bearing wall. The sort of wall that you rely on daily to keep the ceilings, roofs and other things above your head, well, above your head, I guess.
In January of 2014, The Old Toll Bar in Glasgow shut its doors because, as mentioned above, a load-bearing wall was removed, thus rendering the structure of the building and its neighbours, both to the sides and upstairs, dangerously unsound. This meant that those living in the flats above had to vamoose, and the businesses at ground level had to close. This included Istanbul, widely regarded as the best damn kebab shop in town.
Istanbul has had an erratic opening history regardless of structural integrity; it has been known in the past to shut mysteriously for months at a time, only to re-open as if nothing had happened, with the intervening period gloriously unacknowledged. Attempts to bring up the closures with members of staff have been met with shrugs, in one case when I asked, I was informed I was mistaken, and that I must have been walking by at the wrong time of day. I am pleased to say this tradition continues to this day!
Word reached Man Vs Kebab that Istanbul had, after three and a half years, opened its doors again. Some questioned whether or not it ever would, given its history of unreliable opening, and if it did reopened, would it be the same as the good old days? We (I say we, I mean me) went to find out. We had questions that needed-a-answerin’, so off we (I) chogged.
1. Is the food any good?
A resounding yes. In fact, a resounding “Fuck” yes. It is still as good as you remember. But what if you don’t remember? What if you’ve never been, or you have kebab amnesia? Well, it’s difficult to describe, but I’ll try my best. I ordered a mixed kebab which consisted of lamb kofta, lamb doner, lamb shish and chicken shish. The meat was charcoal grilled to perfection, and they really did take care. Cooked right in front of my face, the counter lady checked approximately every other minute for a quarter of an hour to check that they were thoroughly cooked, and the skewers were turned roughly half way through. The doner meat, predictably, came from out of a metal hot tub – however, this in itself wasn’t a bad thing. No! The doner was high quality indeed – lightly spiced sliced lamb breast meat, slightly tougher than your average elephant leg, which is a GOOD THING. The lamb kofta was also superb – it was for all intents and purposes a lamb burger, and very tasty too. But how was it served? Onto question 2:
2. Do they still do that thing where the kebab is served in all its component parts, including putting the pitta bread in a separate bag, thus making it a “do-it-yourself” kind of affair?
For the initiated, I must say for the purposes of taking the photo I had dispatched of the packaging by this point, but yes, the bread in the top half of the tray was originally in its own paper bag, which together with the polystyrene box were together in their larger paper bag. This isn’t a new thing to dodge the 5p plastic bag tax, readers, Istanbul have been doing this since time immemorial.
But yes – it is still sold in its component parts. Now, this where it gets a little tricky for fans of the traditional snack where the meat and salad is conveniently inserted into the bread for ease of eating whilst on the move – the self assembly requires you to find a nearby seat or bus shelter, although if you wish to try this whilst vertical, be my guest. If you try this, the first thing you’ll notice is that the bread is just too small, and whilst you’ll be able to fashion a mini-kebab this way, you’ll have meat left over and it will have been a waste of time. No, the Istanbul kebab is best eaten in the same way you eat soup with a roll, the bread is ideal for dipping and mopping up the sauce. Here, in a nutshell, is how to correctly tackle this beast.
- Open the sauce and pour over meat and salad.
- Eat the meat and salad with plastic fork (provided)
- Leftover sauce, meat fat and salad dressing should be mopped up with the bread.
“BUT MAN VS. KEBAB???”
“That’s not a pitta bread. And what salad dressing?”
“Yes, quite. The bread you see above is a traditional Turkish “pide” bread – think of it as a small, glazed naan bread with sesame seeds. Very tasty. And the salad dressing – well, it’s basically mint, oil and vinegar as far as I can tell. Again, very tasty, and not sweet like regular kebab shop salad”
“You’re welcome. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to move away from contrived dialogue and return to a regular narrative if that’s alright?”
3. Do they still make that preposterous claim that their food is healthy?
Preposterous? It would be a brave man or woman to make that claim – these people have kebab knives! But yes, they do. Here’s the front page of their menu:
ITS PRACTICALLY HEALTH FOOD. Not my caps lock, theirs! To be fair, I don’t think you can argue with that. The chicken on my kebab was done perfectly, not too dry, and certainly not to fatty either. Is it health food? Well, I’m no dietician, but 500 calories isn’t all that much, and lets face it, the best thing here is that this a kebab shop menu boldly proclaiming that it is good for you, so it would be bastardy of me to argue.
It’s at this point that I realise I’ve said too much, so I shall shortly sign off. Istanbul Turkish Kebab Shop can be found at 7, Paisley Road West, Glasgow, a short walk from Shields Road or Kinning Park Subways, and it’s accessible by bus. They also do a range of Turkish non-kebab foods, like Sarbenies and Lahmacuns. That there kebab set me back an entirely reasonable £4.50, and to think I could have gone large for an extra quid.
Overall, Istanbul get 9/10. Why not ten? Because we need something to aim for in life, and Istanbul need to aim for this thing in life: the seating thing.