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Co Antrim kebab house named Northern Ireland's best

By Jonny Bell

The Sphinx kebab house in Glengormley has been named Northern Ireland's best.

The Co Antrim takeaway was handed the title at the British Kebab Awards in London's Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel on Sunday.

Over 1,500 people from across the industry gathered along with VIPs and MPs for the awards.

The Sphinx in Glengormley was shortlisted among nine others in the category from right across Northern Ireland and also nominated in the Best Newcomer Outside London category.

Members of the public were invited to nominate their favourite kebab shops. These were whittled down to a shortlist based on the number of public votes received, nominations from MPs and social media mentions.

For the Sphinx owners it is their third year in a row they have come home victorious, with their Stranmillis shop taking the award in the past two years.

Owner Errol Jenkins, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from London, said: "We are delighted. It is a credit to the staff for all their hard work and the manager Ahmad Jaber who has been with us for the past 10 years.

"The Stranmillis shop won it the previous two years and the awards, although in their fifth year, have only really been open to Northern Ireland in the past three years.

"It was only last year that we branched out to Glengormley. So it's the cherry on the cake to win the award and actually beat Stranmillis."

Errol, who has in the past run a butcher's as well as fish and chip shops, took over the original Sphinx in south Belfast in 2005 from Muhammad Shaker who had established the kebab shop's legend in the city.

"He got the ball rolling," added Templepatrick man Errol.

"He sold us the name and the original Egyptian recipe that we still continue to use to this day."

Asked his secrets, he said: "It would be fair to say we are the only kebab shop in the UK that has its own in-house butcher. We use beef in our kebabs that has been matured for four weeks.

"The judges recognised that in their awards as well as our five-star hygiene ratings which is very important to us."

For those wanting to experience a Sphinx for the first time, Errol recommends kebab on chips with house sauce.

"Can't wait to get home and have one for my dinner tonight," he said.

The annual event is the only one to recognise the contribution made by the kebab industry to the British economy - worth more than £2.8billion a year, supporting around 200,000 jobs across restaurants, suppliers and the food industry.

There are now over 20,000 kebab outlets in the UK selling around 2,500 tonnes of lamb and chicken doner a week. There are also around 200 doner kebab manufacturers in the UK, with a turnover in excess of £750m.

It's thought 1.3million kebabs are consumed each and every day across the UK.

British Kebab Awards and Bira creator Ibrahim Dogus said: “Every year we see the competition get tougher so I congratulate every kebab business that won a British Kebab Award.

“MPs got behind their kebab shops and restaurants by the dozen with more than 40 nominating businesses in their constituencies and that’s great to see. I look forward to seeing what the contenders serve up in 2018.”

Graham Corfield, UK managing director of award sponsor Just Eat, added: “On behalf of Just Eat, I would like to congratulate all of the winners on receiving a British Kebab Award in 2017.

“It is a phenomenal achievement in what are well established and highly competitive fields. The kebab businesses that have succeeded this year serve as shining examples within their local communities and, at the same time, support the thriving UK kebab industry.

"The award for every winner is hugely deserved.”

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