HERE-IN follows a joint review of two south Liverpool food gaffs that have benefited from my custom on a recent frequency that goes beyond decency. Turkish barbecue mecca ‘Elif’ on Lark Lane, and ‘Friends Kebab’ on Smithdown Road have seen far too much of me lately.
I confess, I’m going through a phase where I’m all about the chilli sauce and the lemon juice and both these culinary virtuoso establishments are primed and ready with my current condiment predilections.
‘Elif’, for the non initiated, is a small but perfectly formed Turkish restaurant on south Liverpool’s legendary Lane. They specialise in ‘Mangal’, a Turkish approach to indoor charcoal grill barbecuing of meat, fish and anything else that’s both edible and flammable.
It may simply be that succeeding when cooking stuff that smells good when addressed by fire is such a no brainer, that it’s not really fair to praise those that have the temerity to do so. Regardless, ‘Elif’ burn things well. More specifically, they singe the right gear. I’m particularly a massive fan of this Turkish carpet of a minced lamb patty they offer, that is known rather mysteriously, simply as ‘Adana’.
‘Adana’is like an elongated slender oblong burger type of deal, riddled with chilli, garlic, parsley and myriad middle eastern spices. Those ‘Elif’ boys seem to default to a medium rare approach to it. Well, they show it the flame. No more, and quite rightly so.
Additonally, I’m tending, on more recent visits, to go for the Turkish barbecue equivalent of a ‘mixed grill’ which sates two gluttons nicely, and proffers an orgy of blackened greats – chicken and sheep mainly. Whatever I seem to order at Elif also gets nicely man-marked by some decent olive oiled chips and proper mediteranean salad – you know the type – the sort with some actual bloody flavour in it.
Now, I’m no pleb and I’ll gorge like Caligula on caviar and foie gras if you give me half a chance. I am also guilty of being the author of some of Liverpool’s most ludicrously pretentious and self indulgent restaurants of the past decade, but I retain the value that there’s nothing quite like a restaurant so denuded of affectations or visual ambition that the food can stand alone as testimony to its greatness. Elif is one of those.
Even further down the pretension scale and making Elif look positively extravagant by comparison, is what I’m going to deem Liverpool’s finest contemporary Kebab-orientated establishment. The place in question is the Iraqi owned and accommodatingly named ‘Friends Kebab’ on Smithdown Road (opposite the Dispensary pub).
It goes toe to toe with a noble rival, ‘Nile Kebab’, which faces it directly across the Smithdown Road divide. Both Friends and Nile specialise in the clay oven naan bread as the starting points for their legendary offering. This is the key. The naan bread. I’m not down on the humble kebab’s traditional pocket of choice, the immortal pitta, but naan is a different beast altogether.
The gang at ‘Friends’ treat their signature bread with the requisite respect. After getting properly slapped about before your very eyes, the naan dough is then studded in your choice of chilli, garlic and or coriander, before being lowered into the bowels of the clay oven and plastered onto its curved inner wall.The meats and salad selection that are finally produced to fill the cooked air filled naan are worthy companions. No snide cuts here. Proper meat from proper livestock.
So thanks and praise is due to these southerly Liverpool Asia major giants of the grilled meat profession. They have served me well and hopefully will continue to do so. It should be added that you can be utterly skint and still fill your boots in both Elif and Friends. So, waste no more time. Alight to either, or both. Now. With maximum alacrity.