Inside the first kebab house in Norwich
- Credit: Archant
Mark Fitch spends time with Andreas Luca of one of Prince of Wales Road’s longest-running Greek restaurants
Most of us have missed out on our week or two of Mediterranean sunshine this year. As you may expect, while I’m not averse to laying on a beach reading a book or three, my main interest is probably the food. And not just what we eat, but also how it is prepared and presented. I have therefore indulged myself and spent some time with Andreas Luca, the owner of the Krasadis Taverna on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich.
You only have to be in his presence for a matter of minutes and it’s like being transported to the Greek islands. His humour, his sincerity and his knowledge of the dishes he serves have no limits.
I have asked for a lesson in dolmades, the idea coming to me whilst looking at the vine leaves hanging from my pergola above our rear patio. That, however, has to wait whilst I listen to his story. My words, I fear, will not do his tales justice. If you agree, go see him for yourself.
His family arrived from Cyprus in 1974. By 1977, he had set up the first kebab restaurant in Norwich. The restaurant has been in the family ever since. Andreas describes his style of cooking as traditional Greek Cypriot, as his mother and before her, his grandmother used to do.
Everything is home-made and kebabs are cooked over charcoal. The recipes for his pork ribs and doner kebab are 43 years old, as is that of his dressing. He has been asked many times for them, but will not give them up. I feel honoured to be told that the ratio of lamb meat to fat in his doner is 80:20. He smiles at the English preference to chicken over pork but if that’s what the people want, he says...
Later, he opens the fridge housing his chicken kebabs. He had to choose from 15 family marinades to get the best one for chicken. If ever an aroma could be described as knocking you off your feet, this is it.
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The establishment consists of his restaurant and then, via a separate entrance, the take-away. His hours are long. Last orders in the restaurant are at 11pm; on Friday and Saturday nights, the take-away doesn’t close until 4am.
So, to my dolmades, thankfully not prepared to an aged recipe and so repeatable here. Andreas uses Californian vine leaves. If using mine off the vine, he suggests simmering for seven minutes and then plunging into cold water. The mix is minced pork, chopped onion, dried mint, parsley, cinnamon and a lot of seasoning.
To that is added a whole bottle of lemon juice, tomato purée and uncooked rice. I am taught the way to roll them up. Then they will be simmered in a pan of boiling water containing more tomato purée and olive oil (for the sheen) for 20 minutes. Layers of more vine leaves above and below my little parcels protect those we are to eat.
A plate is used to keep them from floating around and losing shape. In the restaurant, this will be served with a Greek salad (and potatoes if requested).
Andreas describes his customers as friends he cooks for. I hope I am counted within that number.