The spread of the Med
The Restaurant: A trip to Norwood for a schwarma turned into a feast of Hollywood proportions, writes Hilary Biller
My initiation into Middle Eastern flavours came when I was just 10. My father, never one to spoil us with sweets, felt the way to reward children was with experiences that explored foreign flavours and in the 1970s his favourite food haunt was Hillbrow.
Our first schwarmas served in the then newly opened Mi Vami came to the table resembling saucers of bread stuffed like cushions with funny bits and pieces coated in a sauce that tasted a little like peanut butter.
I was reminded of this as we stood in line for a table at Norwood's Schwarma Company recently. Tempting piles of freshly made meze beckoned from behind the glass counter as cones of meat turned rhythmically and enthusiastic young staff carved off slices. Customers queued to pick out fillings and waitresses whizzed by with steaming platters of food with mounds of hot chips just begging to be nicked.
I'm sure the owner-twins, Marwan and Wafi Shebne, use this as a ploy. Once you get a table you are so hungry that the Mediterranean Table (R540 for four) seemed like child's play for the four of us, and the only thing to satisfy our hunger.
Just like a theatre production, the acts play out in ritual fashion. (One small warning: when choosing wine from the rack, ask the price first.)
A dozen or so tempting bowls of meze arrived in turn at the table - creamy humus, smoky baba ghanoush, crisp yellow corn, hot green chilli, fried aubergine, minty tabbouleh, pickled red cabbage, falafel balls, kibbeh, and more - followed by a basket of hot pita and tools to tackle the feast.
Finally the pièce de résistance, the meat: a sizzling platter of lamb koftas, chicken kebabs, tender beef steaks and enormous succulent ribs. It was a Middle Eastern banquet, prompting the woman at the table next to us to say: "You look like something out of movie, with enough food to feed at least a dozen of you." She shook her head: "I just can't believe it."
No madam, this was no movie. This was for real and so tasty I'll happily go back for more.
THE SCHWARMA COMPANY, 71 GRANT AVENUE, NORWOOD