NOTE: Peter Gloftis now co-owns The Lamb Shop, Brisbane with Stephen AKA ‘Cappa’, the owner of The Lamb Shop Broadbeach.
“Fast food done well,” The Lamb Shop’s former owner Peter Gloftis had told us when we first visited.
I’d looked at him, glanced into the shop, and then down at my food. That’s his mission?
‘He’s the master of understatement!’ I thought. This is not ‘fast’ food.
We had been beckoned over to The Lamb Shop by the aromas wafting out into Oracle Boulevard; meat roasting slowly on a spit over high grade charcoal. It’s the stuff of home hearths and heritage, with culinary techniques and family recipes passed down through centuries.
From the 17th century BC, Greeks skewered meat and grilled it over hot coals, the origins of today’s souvlaki. In many areas, meat was a delicacy, with olive oil and herbs flavouring a plant-based diet grown on the hills around them. Terrain and climate dictated the meat available: goat, lamb, chicken and fish rather than beef.
The Lamb Shop pays homage to the farm workers, butchers and cooks who brought food to the family table through love and necessity.
Farmers. Butchers. Chefs. Sexy men.
The Lamb Shop oozes masculinity; a modern take on an old-fashioned butchery with its blue and white heritage tiles, the shop counter low enough to see the spit perched above glowing coals, and your meal being prepared by gorgeous men in leather butchers’ aprons. Peel away the mystique. How we love to watch men at work!
And it’s a workman’s meal: a modern take on traditional souvlaki, with no shortcuts taken.
“Cooking with fire gives you an element of flavour that no other cooking method can,” says The Lamb Shop’s Head Chef Chris Ginley. “We get lots of quality into the meat through the smoky charcoal.”
He tells us of the attention put into the fire, using the hot embers from the night before, removing the ash and rebuilding the fire each day with Gidgee hardwood charcoal. After 30 minutes the fire is ready. Shoulders of Junee lamb are marinated for 24 hours, then slow-cooked over charcoal for 4 to 5 hours, basted constantly during cooking. Similarly, chicken is cooked for two hours giving the textured layers of flavour and smokiness that we love in Greek grilled meat.
The menu offers five types of souvlaki and a choice of two small plates plus sides. We try one of each: Slow-cooked pork packed into a soft pita with onion, parsley, tzatziki and, in a turn which would make the purists blush, chips. They’re not just any chips, though. Hand cut and prepared from scratch in a triple cooking process, they’re gourmet fare! Eaten at the bar with an accompanying beer or wine (The Lamb Shop is fully licensed) or to take away, the souvlaki’s a generous meal.
My ‘small’ plate of slow-cooked lamb arrives, the generous serving of meat freshly cut from the spit. It’s accompanied by tangy tzatziki and quarters of soft pita bread, a lunch unadorned by the refreshment of a salad, which can be ordered as a side. I long for green, but the meat begs to be eaten, its smoky flavours playing with nose and tongue as it yields easily to the bite. Earthy, unfussy, it carries the legacy of coals and herbs that only slow cooking brings.
The flavours play with my imagination as well. If only we could see where this aroma had wafted before through history, what stories would it bring?
‘Fast food?’ I muse. Fast only to me.
NOTE: Updated February 2019. A previous version of this review was published on More Gold Coast.