Being of that strange breed who can eat such things sober, I stopped off on Queensway on the way home this evening to visit one of my old haunts – Taza Kebab House. I used to live a street away and was a regular there during the lovely days of the late 90s and coming back today over 10 years later it hasn’t changed a bit. The prices are up by 50p, but lamb or chicken (or both) shawarma still goes into a pitta which is then placed in a griddled Panini machine before being taking, when crispy, and annointed with salad, garlic sauce, a chunky chilli and tomato sauce and something that looks like houmous but is a lot runnier. It’s the only kebab shop I know where they give you a paper plate (for eat in) or a takeaway silver dish (for takeaway) and point you towards tubs of salad and sauce that sit on the obligatory leaning shelf opposite the counter. It’s still great.
My friend Max used to come down from Newcastle, where he was studying agriculture (although he was a proper farmer rather than someone who thought it might be nice to have daddy buy them a farm), arrive at Bayswater tube and then demand to be taken to Taza. We would walk the 2 minutes to my house whereupon he would place the kebab on a plate and reverently eat it with a knife and fork. We would then go and get very drunk. In summary – good kebab.
Anyways, while walking up the road back towards the station I spotted some german text on a bag of nuts on the counter in one of the shops. I’ve been on a bit of a memory lane wander recently, remembering when I used to live in Vienna, and so jumped into the shop hoping it would contain teutonic treats. Unfortunately I had misread the situation and it was instead the Kalinka Russian shop. Not to be dissuaded, as it was empty and the staff were mopping the floor and looking mopey, I grabbed a chunk of smoked beef and the most soviet looking bottle of beer that I could find – жигулевское. A quick poke at the Wikipedia cyrillic alphabet page gave me something I could read, Zhigulevskoe.
When poured it’s a very light golden colour with a small amount of head that clears quickly. It doesn’t smell of much, with hints of maltiness and a touch of citrus. To taste it changes quite rapidly. Initially quite bitter it fades to sickly malt along the sides of the tongue and turns to a dry generic eastern european taste at the back of the mouth. Not particular interesting but not all that bad, even if it isn’t one that I’ll be seeking out again in the future.
According to the internets it’s a brand of the Efes group, picked up when they bought into the Krazny Vostok brewery, and it’s brewed in Kazan, a part of Russia that I hadn’t heard about – how I hadn’t heard of Tartarstan when I spend most of my days picking through interestingly named places (mainly in Russia) on Wikipedia eludes me. However, while searching for more information about the brew I came across the following two YouTube videos which I assume, as I don’t speak russian, give differing reviews of the greatness of this beer: