Sometimes I think that I live in a parallel universe to the food critic Jay Rayner.
Our paths have never crossed, though we have occasionally reviewed the same restaurants. I was impressed with his recent excellent account of Erst; his review of Canto, less so. Recently, I was booked to sample One Star Döner Bar at Escape to Freight Island, the vast, multi-concession destination location at the back of Piccadilly Station in Manchester. On Sunday, I opened The Observer magazine for my weekly dose of Rayner. Lo and behold, there he was reviewing a kebab place in London. See, parallel universe. All very bizarro.
It isn’t quite Sliding Doors, but there is a movie in it. I would be played by W.C. Fields and Rayner would be immortalised by Stanley Tucci in a wig. As it happens, I had tripped over a kerb the previous week, badly damaging my knee. Drinking too much wine to wash down the Ibuprofen, my foot swelled with a bout of painful gout. Very W.C. Fields. With the help of a walking stick and an Uber, I managed to make it to my pre-arranged appointment at One Star Döner Bar.
I arrived a bit early, but the staff at Freight Island were extremely kind. I found One Star located in a corner of the vast indoor arena where they were expecting me. One Star Döner Bar is a new venture by Michelin-starred chef Brad Carter. A bit of a raver, Carter was inspired by the idea of Berlin Gemüse Kebabs, which he says is the best dish he has ever tasted. I ordered the popular döner. It arrived pretty darn tout de suite, but I was the only customer (this being 4pm and not 4am).
I’m not much of a raver these days but I do enjoy a good kebab as much the next House fan. And a good kebab it was. Succulent pieces of Cornish lamb were stuffed into a locally sourced Turkish flatbread and garnished with red cabbage, coleslaw, lamachun with chilli and white sauces. A green chilli and a chargrilled pepper with Carter’s potato smiles make up a welcome tray groaning with tasty goodies. The ensemble was ably supported by a glass of excellent Factotum Pale Ale brewed by Pomona Island.
Kebabs, especially German Gemüse, are making a comeback and One Star Döner Bar will certainly add to the clamour. When my leg gets better, I will escape to Freight Island once again to try Carter’s Chicken Shawarma. As for Rayner, I did notice in Observer Food Monthly that he was with Tucci cooking Timpano, a pasta pie made famous by Tucci’s 1996 movie Big Night. In our parallel universes, he has already got the jump on me. Then I remembered that W.C. Fields died in 1946, leaving me looking for a loophole. Still, Fields’ advice on cooking with wine remains unsurpassed: “Sometimes I even add it to the food.”