Fanny’s might have done things differently from the off. Firstly, the crowdfunded soon-to-open restaurant elected to include in its logo, beneath the name Fanny’s, a tagline, which was also its mission statement: Fanny’s kebabs are (or were) “posh kebabs.” What’s more, the brand has elected to open its first site — a roll-out-ready ‘concept’ — in Stoke Newington, the north London neighbourhood synonymous with a host of long-serving Turkish ocakbaşı (grill) restaurants. Those restaurants don’t just serve kebabs, but it is kebabs for which they are best known. Thus, and not without justification, the decision for unproven, inbound operators to implicitly say that kebabs made by Turkish chefs (or Pakistani, Persian, Greek, or Lebanese chefs, for that matter) are somehow inferior — and to open in the heart of London’s Turkish community — was met with a generous amount of surprise and irritation.
“Fanny’s is aiming to offer a premium kebab shop experience that improves the UK’s perception of the kebab,” the operators offer by way of introduction on its crowdfunding page. That campaign reached its targeted £150,000 in just 17 minutes when it was launched at the start of last year.
However last week, and ahead of Fanny’s opening on 6 February, the public turned against the tone-deaf pitch. So much so, in a call with Eater London today, Claude Compton, one of the founders of Fanny’s, said that they will drop the word “posh” from the logo and will no longer be referring to the brand in those terms.
The fallout started when the account @StokeyLitFest tweeted a photo of the Fanny’s site with a note advertising for staff ahead of the opening. “Thank god some lads from Fulham are opening Fanny’s on the High St, home of some of the best Turkish food outside Turkey, to ‘reshape what people think a kebab is’. Best of luck with that, guys,” the account wrote.
Thank god some lads from Fulham are opening Fanny's on the High St, home of some of the best Turkish food outside Turkey, to 'reshape what people think a kebab is'. Best of luck with that, guys. https://t.co/pOBadrzmyr pic.twitter.com/BLyfG7pkck— StokeyLitFest (@StokeyLitFest) January 18, 2018
Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin then used it to inform her followers of a “handy definition of ‘hubris.”
If you're looking for a handy definition of 'hubris'... https://t.co/tSOAW0GGhU— Marina O'Loughlin (@MarinaOLoughlin) January 19, 2018
While Observer restaurant critic, Jay Rayner said, “it gets worse. they want to be the Byron of Kebabs.”
It gets worse. they want to be the Byron of Kebabs. https://t.co/hNBfCStpFG— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) January 19, 2018
Before Mangal 2’s famously frank Twitter account, which is run by general manager Ferhat Dirik, sarcastically called it “another heartwarming rags to riches immigrant tale of kebabs in central London.”
Fucks sake. Another heartwarming rags to riches immigrant tale of kebabs in central London. https://t.co/vHrXhdRzcQ— Mangal 2 Restaurant (@Mangal2) January 15, 2018
Dirik told Eater London that he believed the move to be “clear bandwagoning.” “They correctly identify Stoke Newington and Dalston as a kebab go-to area, and want a piece of the kebab pie.”
Asked what his take on so-called “posh kebabs” was, he said: “I think it’s insulting. It insinuates many negative connotations regarding the kebab industry, those who work in it and those who eat kebabs. It’s very poorly judged and a rubbish choice of word. And in the end, kebabs were never designed to be taken to an upmarket degree by rich kids from Fulham.” Although he doesn’t necessarily think Fanny’s or any such business presents a threat to his family business. “Nothing can threaten Mangal 2. Besides Mad-Lamb disease,” he said. “The customer knows where to find good food in a good atmosphere.”
He added: “I genuinely want every restaurateur to do well, irrespective of their background and the choice in cuisine they serve. But don’t insult hundreds of years of tradition and tens of thousands of Turks/Greeks/Lebanese/Pakistani’s etc by implying you can improve their poor peasant food. Do well, but not at the expense of the whole of the middle-east.”
It’s worth remembering that Fanny’s — incidentally, named after Fanny Craddock (“a fun British name with a sense of personality” with “a tongue-in-cheek sense of cheekiness,” for good measure) — stated:
“We aim to produce the tastiest, coolest kebab around. Fanny’s aims to be a premium kebab experience improving the UK’s perception of the kebab. We hope there will be none of the associated atrocities expected in kebab shops. Fanny’s is aiming to re-write, re-invent & re-invigorate the London Kebab scene.”
The owners chose not to respond to any of the comments made last week. But, when asked why he felt kebabs need to be “posh” and “healthy” — given it would be difficult to mount a serious argument that says, for example, a grilled chicken or lamb sis, is either unhealthy or whatever the opposite of posh is — Claude Compton told Eater London this morning that it was about “differentiation,” which is to say their “take” and their use of suppliers. “This is not what we wanted — we’re not picking that battle. It’s our take on a kebab — we’re not looking to degrade anyone,” he said. “Realistically, it was a bit misguided the posh thing. We’re going to drop the posh. It’s not necessarily that one is better than the other. We’re not attempting to do the same product.”
“We picked that area, we love it over there. We wanted to get involved in the food scene there,” he added on the choice of location.
To explain what he meant by “differentiation,” Compton said he has “a degree in biochemistry and has worked his way up, in kitchens, over the years.” He’s therefore going to try to apply learned “techniques” to the kebab-making process. What this means in practice is that Fanny’s will cook only skewered kebabs only on a (Japanese) robata grill and will replace thickening agents in sauces with agar seaweed derivatives. Coupled with a “reduction in salt levels,” this is where the health bit comes from. They will also use the suppliers they’re familiar with in west London, such as the butcher, HG Walter, for “free-range meat,” the option of gluten-free flat bread and vegetables sourced as “locally as possible.” Somehow this amounts to what Compton later refers to as a “very organic kebab” — “one that we’re definitely looking to keep as natural and healthy as possible.”
The Instagram account (which now appears to have deleted all photos) was littered with references to health — with one stating “follow us in the search for a healthy kebab. #comingsoon #followfannys.” It appears that in Fanny’s market research it believed the doner to be the principal vice of the late-night kebab seeker. It will thus, in Compton’s words, not be offering “the spinning kebab,” despite his confessing that established kebab restaurants offer grilled food as well.
He then assured, despite the fallout, that he and the team remain “very excited” and “just want to get in there and cook.” And there is no suggestion the restaurant will drop the name Fanny’s. It was a case of “a couple of lads driven by food, maybe not branding,” he said. “Lesson learned.”