And so to e.mono, the little place on Kentish Town Road with charming Victorian signage (which could date back as far as 1872).
Rightly praised by many readers in our Best New Opening and even Best Evening Meal categories (‘really great value quality food,’ said ND; ‘it’s a glowing haven in the dark and the kebabs are flipping lovely,’ said Fiona), this tiny joint enjoyed an X Factor fame-booster on Christmas Eve when local boy Giles Coren decided to devote his double page Times Magazine column to its delights.
‘The owner, Michael, he wrote, ‘whose dad was in the kebab business for 54 years, is determined to turn round the reputation of kebabs in this country, and makes all his kebabs on site (the elephant legs, too) from fresh, not frozen British meat, and uses exclusively free-range chicken. Free-range! It’s unheard of.’
And you can imagine how our Twitter twittered after that. In fact, let me tell you right here that Mrs Kentishtowner, marooned in Norfolk on a festive family visit, was writhing in disbelief that she – yes, she, of all people! – still hadn’t eaten there. And we’re not kidding when we say she was that close to driving back to NW5 for a mid-holiday chicken doner.
Upon our return she was straight out the door and marching towards the high street, where Coren’s feature now sits in pride of place in the window. The smiling boys behind the counter admitted it has been great for business.
From a blackboard menu listing just three items each in two categories (‘Doner’ and ‘Kebab’), we chose one chicken and one lamb (both doner, £3.99). Both were succulent and flavoursome, with Mrs KT appreciating the rocket and garlic in the chicken, but in the end the lamb taking top marks with its very full, fatty flavour. And not a soggy pitta in sight. ‘Next time we’ll try a kofte,’ she enthused, licking her fingers.
‘E. Mono. Remember the name. With its heritage-proclaiming beauty, its haiku-simple menu, its on-trend smallness, lack of a telephone (eat your heart out, Spuntino), and its up-and-coming inner-city location, it is without question the hippest place to be seen at the moment. It takes such theoretically hard-core fashionable places as Duck Soup (reviewed here next), Mishkin’s (reviewed here last week) and Meat Liquor (so cool I don’t even know where it is) and blanks them with the coolness and reserve of an 8ft supermodel. This is, without question, the coolest restaurant of the turning year.’
The only point we would make that, alas, it’s not a restaurant yet. Not really. However, the boys revealed exclusively that they ‘plan to open one downstairs, it’s all about cash flow.’ (We would suggest dark lighting, stools at the bar, and ale provided by nearby Camden Town Brewery.)
But for now, help them on their way by binning the new year’s diet and form an orderly queue.
Have you been to e.mono? Go on, share your thoughts. Oh, and Happy New Year and all that.
Words & pics: Stephen Emms