Today Fresh Shawarma
£2.50 could be spent no better way
Quite simply, this small, dingy-looking shawarma spot just off Wilmslow road kept me alive for a fair few weeks in April and May of 2019. The prices (two quid fifty for a chicken shawarma in naan or samun, three for lamb!) suggest aggressive bacterial infection of the colon. The reality, however is more than one could possibly dream of. The naan is made fresh in a tandoor oven behind the counter. The chicken and lamb spin seductively, infused with spices, herbs and tomato juice. The salads and sauces (just ask for all of them – it makes life a lot easier) are a welcome counterpoint to the gloriously sweaty meat. For those of you of the veggie/vegan persuasion – i.e. humanity’s slightly smug future – falafel is available, and delicious. These freshly made wonder-balls could test a Texan’s devotion to destroying the planet, with each bite packing a haymaker of flavour
Today Fresh Shawarma is, for me at least, at its most vital in times of stress and adversity. It is not a four-in-the-morning, pissed off your tits, post-club venue by any stretch. During the month-or-so period of exam revision at the end of my first year, the normal time to make the pilgrimage to this Mecca of the art of greasy spinning meat was around six PM.
This seemed to be the ideal time for two reasons: firstly, as a student, the general rule is to try and survive most of the day without eating – toastie at breakfast, coffee and a fag, then ride out the day-ful of hunger pangs. Six PM was usually the longest I could last. The second reason was based on a second kind of endurance. By about four pm, reading and making notes on medieval Europe starts to take its toll; in fact, its fair to say it is the point at which you start to wonder whether or not the Christian-butchering Viking hordes may have been onto something. I’d generally struggle on for another couple of hours at most, at which point someone would usually offer me drugs and the whole exercise would be abandoned in favour of a trip to Today Fresh – a place which I can now only associate with the heady mixture of both guilt and anticipation felt on the walk there.
One day in the future, a long way away from the neon charms of Wilmslow road, I will find a place that does shawarma as well as it is done here. I will be slouched over a linoleum table top, food in hand, meat juice dripping down my chin; in the middle of this Proustian trance I will remember the watery sunshine of those sepia-toned days of mid 2019, when to be young and free meant picking up a shawarma and inhaling it on the walk home, knowing that the promises of the night were only another twenty pages on the early spread of Christianity away.