The recipe for creating a great kebab restaurant is simple, according to the new kid on the block in the UK: treat customers like family.
Mehmet Ulucan — owner of Mehmet Kitchen in Portsmouth, which won best newcomer from outside London at the British Kebab Awards this week — said he was delighted with his win.
The 41-year-old, who arrived in the UK 20 years ago from the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey, put his success down to his love for his job and his loyal customers, who he said helped his business thrive after starting less than a year ago.
“My first priority is to make sure they are leaving happy and I look after them as if they are part of my family,” he told The National.
Hundreds of restaurant industry heavyweights, celebrities and political figures attended the British Kebab Awards in London this week.
Since 2013, the awards have offered recognition to an industry which is often overlooked for its contribution to British culture.
The winners include a diverse range of kebab purveyors, from fine dining at La’de Kitchen in North London, to Diamond Kebab, which won best kebab van of the year.
Murat Yazgan, owner of Yaz Restaurant, where Ali Akis picked up Chef of the Year, will use the award to raise the bar even higher.
“When we first found out we were shortlisted, we were excited. When it came to winning the award, it was an extremely proud moment for me.”
Yaz Restaurant is a 200-seat venue over two floors in Highams Park, East London, that opened in 2018 with Mr Akis in the kitchen.
Mr Yazgan said all his staff played a role in winning the title.
“We like to think we are not just another Turkish restaurant and this proves it. I think of the years of hard work that have been put in that allows us to be recognised.
“This will bring a lot of attention to the venue. We are expecting increased attention and more customers. We are expecting this to propel us forward.”
He also praised his loyal customers and the local and central governments for support during the Covid pandemic, which strongly affected the hospitality industry.
“We have a fantastic community here and throughout Covid, our customers offered unending support for us.”
“Following a very difficult 18 months for all those in the hospitality sector, it gave me great joy to see a full house of friends new and old, celebrating each other’s hard work and successes,” said Ibrahim Dogus, founder of the British Kebab Awards.
“I would like to congratulate all the winners as well as all those that made it on to the shortlist. This year, we were inundated with entries and the standard was unbelievable across the board. Thank you to everyone involved.”
The 2021 winners are:
- Best Kebab House in Northern Ireland: Grab a Kebab
- Best Kebab House in Scotland: Dante’s Fish Chips and Kebab
- Best Kebab House in Wales: Wales Kebab
- Best Kebab Restaurant in North & West London: Antalya Restaurant
- Best Kebab Restaurant in South & East London: The Ottoman Doner, Duman Doner
- Best Kebab Restaurant Regional: Zeytin Restaurant, Pasha Turkish Gill Restaurant, Batman Grill
- Best Newcomer Restaurant in London/Outside London: Etci Kitchen in Brighton, Mehmet Kitchen, La’de Kitchen
- Best Takeaway in London: Pizza King Kebab House, Kervan Saray
- Best Takeaway Regional: Botan Kebab House, Master Kebab
- Best Value Restaurant: EV Restaurant
- Customer Satisfaction: Bursa Kebab, Alaturka Doner, Mount Nemrut Turkish Restaurant
- Fine Dining Restaurant: The Mantl, Roza
- Kebab Van of the Year: Diamond Kebab
- Just Eat Best Delivery: Dilan Kebab, BBQ Grill Chatham
- Best Greek Restaurant: Meze Greek Restaurant, Tonys Pita
- Best Lebanese Restaurant: Cedrus Lebanese Cuisine
- Supplier of the Year: Kismet Kebabs
- Chef of the Year: Ali Akis, Yaz Restaurant