You have a restaurant - how did you come to be making and serving kebabs through your kitchen window?
Dan Kenny: Luka and I have been working together for some time and share a love for kebabs and filthy food in general. We were on furlough twiddling our thumbs and we both had an idea to do kebabs, so we joined forces.
Luka Dmitryi: We could not find a suitable site so we got in touch with the council and registered the business at Dan’s home address, prised the window open (it had been painted shut), and started flinging kebabs out of it. We definitely would not have seen ourselves doing this six months ago and it was originally conceived out of despair, but it's been great fun.
Tell us about the kebabs themselves....
DK: Luka was a baker at St John so he’s very handy with the flatbreads, the dough is fermented for four days and then cooked to order using a contractor’s blowtorch.
LD: We treat the kebab like we would the tasting menus at The Set - it's the same quality of produce. We do some more classic ones – including chicken shish (chicken thigh, chilli sauce, garlic sauce, salad and Turkish pickled pepper) – alongside more eclectic ones. These include lamb (lamb shoulder and smoked sturgeon kofte, green pepper relish, caviar mayonnaise, crispy seaweed, shiso and lemon kosho). The classic ones are £10 and the more eclectic ones are £12.
And this is all happening in a domestic kitchen?
DK: Yes. We split the prep list and do some of it at my flat and some of it at Luka's. Then it all comes together on Wednesdays, we're doing a two-hour service in which we make up to 45 kebabs.
LD: It's just the one night at the week as we don't have the fridge, oven or prep space to do any more than that.
What about kit?
LD: We're using some kit from The Set but we're mostly using domestic stuff. The biggest problem is how hot it gets without commercial extraction. It's a small space, the kitchen is barely 3m long.
How do people order?
DK: It's all via Instagram. We put the menu up at the weekend, people go onto a waitlist and we DM them to let them know they have secured a kebab and give them the address and an exact time slot. People turn up and give us cash. We have a big glass jar, it's high-tech stuff. The location was initially supposed to be secret but people have worked it out (the flat is in Brighton's Seven Dials area). We've had a few people turning up speculatively on Friday and Saturday nights...
How has the project been received by your neighbours?
DK: We've only got one neighbour upstairs. They were very nice about it. The landlord was okay with it too and the council were great. They okay'd it within a week - we got the nod because of The Set and the hygiene rating we hold there.
LD: There are a few people walking by that are confused. They're literally going out of the window so it looks like it might be a drug deal.
Did you consider delivering the kebabs?
LD: The fees are a bit punchy, it would be almost pointless doing it with our current prices. We'd also have an issue with capacity - we can't make more than we're currently doing
Do you eventually want to open Five Star Kebabs as a bricks and mortar site?
DK: Yes. But not as a restaurant. It will always be just a takeaway. We're launching at a co-working space called Platform 9 in Hove soon. We're going to stay away from pubs because they're a bit tricky. We're very clear we only want to do it one way. We don't want to compromise and be forced to put on side salads and chips. We're being selfish with it because we're enjoying it. We don't want it to be bland, we want it to be full on.
LD: Prices are low at the moment but they will go up when our costs go up, at the moment the price reflects the fact they're being made within our homes.
What are your plans for The Set?
DK: We're re-opening on 31 August. We're going to trade Monday and Wednesday only in the evenings with just 10 covers. We will do a 14 course tasting menu for £75 with an optional drinks flight. We will use the weekend for pop-ups and masterclasses. We want to keep it very fluid and flexible during these uncertain times, we don't want to be committed to a six or seven day a week operation.
Why only early in the week?
DK: Yep it does seem a bit nuts. The logic is that we do 20-30 covers at The Set on quiet days early in the week so we know we can fill it, and later in the week we'll be doing the kebabs. Also, many good indies in Brighton are closed early in the week so we can pick some of that business up. We've had four months to reflect on how the industry works and how we do things, this is a good time to try and correct problems. I don't want people in the kitchen 50-60 hours a week anymore.