We were nearly overcome by the rush in our visit to new ‘posh’ kebab fast food place, Chifafa, in Clerkenwell Road virtually opposite The Zetter and close to St. John’s Square. But that was our fault for turning up to chat to the founder of the business, Nick Green, at the lunchtime rush. Nick devised the concept of an outlet selling ‘healthy’ kebabs some 3 years ago when he spotted what he saw as a gap in the market. The result is Chifafa which, although it opened in December, it is only in the past couple of weeks that it has begun to really take off.
Nick is almost evangelical in his zeal in describing the Chifafa concept. In most cases kebab establishments, with their doner vertical rotisseries are, perhaps unfairly, regarded as being at the lower end of the fast food chain often serving what is seen as unhealthy cheap fatty fare usually wrapped in a flatbread such as pita bread. The Chifafa concept is to abjure the vertical rotisserie preparation, source high quality meat and serve this in a healthier manner – which even runs into the surroundings. ‘No doners, no chips, no deep fat frying, no foam cartons, no neon’, it boasts in its promotion, ‘but excellent, affordable, fresh, healthy, premium kebabs served quickly’.
Chifafa occupies a fairly small space, and perhaps hasn’t yet got its queuing etiquette sorted yet, but these are early days and judging by the take-up at 12.45 pm on a Tuesday, it is already proving very popular indeed at lunchtimes. Nick’s aim is now to see an increase in take-up through the rest of the day, and particularly in the evenings. He is considering offering a delivery service in the area, probably through an independent delivery channel like Deliveroo, which specialises in high quality food deliveries, but this involves taking a significant hit in the terms of cost of using the service, so the economics of so doing need to be weighed up carefully.
The writer tried a lamb kebab which is described as lamb shoulder marinated in 16 herbs and spices for a day, slow cooked and finished on a char-grill. It is served with crumbled feta, Amba green mango pickle, chilli sauce (you can choose how spicy), fresh dill tahini yoghurt and a salad of tomato, lettuce and red onion. The overall package is extremely tasty and perhaps how a kebab should be, but a little more pricey than the standard kebab shop offering – but then you are paying for quality and for the overhead costs of setting up in the heart of Clerkenwell.
In addition to lamb, Chifafa also offers chicken and veal kebabs, falafels, halloumi cheese – and even a bread=free kebab, which comes with rice and salad choice, for those on high protein/low carb diets. It also sells cakes which come in for strong praise from customers.
For those who live, or work, in the EC1 and EC2 areas in particular, and feel in want of a healthier version of the kebab, do give Chifafa a try. It’s at 45-47 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RS. Probably best for a take-away as there is fairly limited seating space. Current opening hours are Mon-Wed 11.30am-9pm, Thurs-Fri 11.30am-11.30pm. There is a limited website – www.chifafa.com which gives descriptions of the kebabs on offer and their pricing.