Shawarma can be things of great beauty.
The one I ate nearly a decade ago in Jaffa on the outskirts of Tel Aviv lingers still in my memory: a mountain of lamb that was charred on the outside but succulent within served with pillow-soft flatbread, fresh crisp salad and pokey sauces.
Served in an unfussy cafe frequented by Palestinian workmen, it was street food of the highest order.
Perhaps my hopes were too high when I visited the likeable Lewis’s cafe in Moseley which each Thursday and Friday hosts Gemmayzeh Nights – named after the buzzing Beirut suburb and a showcase of Lebanese food.
At £12.50, the lamb shawarma I ate was disappointing.
The lamb itself was small in quantity and overcooked so that it was dry and a little tough.
The accompanying flatbread, fattoush, salad, fried potatoes and tahini dressing were fine, but unexciting.
Many of the elements were, I thought, woefully under-seasoned.
Which I thought true of the small plates with which I began.
A sharing platter featured good and properly coarse hummus, baba ganoush that was adequate and a rather pleasantly tangy and nicely textured labneh, a soft cheese made from strained yoghurt.
The dishes were nicely garnished and prettily presented.
But all for me were under-powered, showing few of the vibrant warmly spiced notes of great Middle Eastern cuisine.
An additional plate of ejjeh koussa courgette and halloumi fritters also failed to stir many thrills, for the fritters were a little stodgy.
Three of us shared these starters and each had shawarma, which were all generous in proportion.
A bottle of Lebanese red and small bottle of IPA pushed the price to £85, which I thought high.
Service however, was good and the cafe itself a fine place to sit on a warm evening with the large front window open so we could gaze out on the hustle and bustle Moseley.
And the lengthy menu has plenty of small plates and salads that would allow diners to construct a meal to share full of variety.
The cafe was packed and is an interesting addition to the Village’s dining scene.
Perhaps with a bit more bravery with the spice jars and more judicious cooking of the lamb, the food would have excited more and I’d have left a lot happier.
11 St Mary’s Row, Moseley Birmingham B13 8HW. 0121 449 9933.