Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fitting in? Exploring the concept in the Portobello neighborhood.

Diners at the Fez Magal in Ladbroke Grove London come from many backgrounds and walks of life. Sitting elbow to elbow with strangers at small tables spaced one inch apart should be stressful from an American standpoint. The chairs are so close together than those seated next to the wall cannot get up from the table without the patron next to them getting up and pushing their chair in.

The grill area is intense, with four of five men manning the grill in a six by three foot space. The copper fan over the grill gleams and serves as an effective exhaust system as shish kebab after kebab goes on the grill. Diners watch as chicken and lamb sputter, and as aubergines, courgettes, onions and tomatoes are brushed with oil and begin turning golden and soft.

Some customers pour wine they brought into the restaurant from outside into glasses provided by the wait staff. Alcohol is not sold, but it can be consumed. The waiters serve meze; cacik, hummous, baba ganoush, and tabouleh. Guests forget they are crowded and have nothing in common with those around them. Suddenly a bond is formed as the delicious selections at each table are scooped up with fresh and warm pide, and popped into an expectant mouth. Smiles emerge with the burst of flavor coming from each bite, mint, garlic, parsley. Everyone belongs and is part of a community celebrating a meal at Fez Magal.

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