THE humble kebab is a divisive fellow.
You probably fall into one of two camps – only eat one when you’re blind drunk at 3am or know a place that does good ones and eat there regularly.
I fall into the latter category, despite growing up in the UK where the open pita kebab was a deadly weapon after a night out and you’d wake up in the morning looking like you had been stabbed (it was actually the bright red chilli sauce which always ended up on your clothes).
My love of kebabs can be traced back to childhood holidays in the Mediterranean, where glorious lamb skewers were cooked over an open grill in tavernas, and growing up friends with a Pakistani boy in Glasgow.
After school we would venture down to the nearby suburb of Pollokshields, where there was a large Pakistani community and loads of halal eateries.
There we would sample spicy lamb pizzas, kebabs, pakoras and all manner of unhealthy delights before our main meal back home – a bit like Scottish hobbits.
With this in mind, I took a Proustian trip to Arik’s Istanbul kebabs and Turkish bakery in South Perth – one of the first kebab shops I tried after moving down under.
It’s an unassuming little joint on Angelo Street, which over the past decade has become a chic hub with cafes, a small bar, designer shops and an upmarket IGA-style “Coles Local”.
Despite all the gentrification, Arik’s looks pretty much the same as when it first opened in 2005 with those old-school PVC flaps on the front door (the ones you have to part like the Red Sea to get in).
It’s got a nice little pavement alfresco, where you can munch your kebab and peer across at the prestigious Wesley College, or sit inside where it’s basic but roomy with a few tables and chairs.
Family-run and owned, there’s a nice feel to the halal takeaway and a younger member of the clan greeted me with a friendly smile as I walked in.
The illuminated menu board on the wall had all the old favourites including kebabs, burgers, seafood, gozleme, pide, pizzas, sweets and Turkish bread.
We recently dropped in for a spinach, lamb and cheese gozleme, which had a delicious filling and light bread, and a baklava and chicken burger.
Today I had my sights set on the humble chicken kebab with salad ($14). Forget about all that egg and cheese nonsense which strays into bastardising the dish into something it’s not – get the basic kebab with salad.
The Turkish bread was a standout – it had that classic mottled look and was light and tasty with just the right thickness and chewy texture.
The teared chicken wasn’t greasy or tough and had a nice almost marinated flavour. The flavoursome chook went well with the lettuce, tomato and onion.
My young son opted for a beef burger with cheese and salad ($12). His eyes nearly popped out his head when he saw the size of the burger wrapped up.
The large patty was wedged between two pieces of Turkish bread with a generous helping of onion, tomato and lettuce.
The Turkish bread gave it an exotic twist and he enjoyed the taste of the flamegrilled burger.
I had a sneaky taste and it was a moreish number with the patty having a nice smokiness.
The small chips were the only letdown ($8): they were meant to have salt and vinegar, but I couldn’t taste any and they looked a bit dark and overcooked.
If you’re in South Perth and fancy a casual bite to eat, Arik’s is worth a try. You might even reconsider any prejudice you have towards the humble kebab.
Arik’s Istanbul Kebabs and
67 Angelo St, South Perth
by STEPHEN POLLOCK