Sumer, at number 19 Calle Bravo Murillo in Madrid, has had a loyal clientele since its inception and, thanks to its latest location, is joined by spectators from the neighboring Cines Verdi —one of the few remaining in the city with programming in the original version—that seek to finish off the plan. “In addition, now that Turkish series have become fashionable, many people also come asking about our food and customs,” says its owner, Zaza, while cutting the meat to prepare a kebab. At the age of 15, Zaza left Turkey for Germany and soon began working in his family’s traditional cuisine restaurants.
He says that in 2008 he wanted to live near the beach, he settled in Cádiz and there he opened his first kebab shop in the old town. Later he moved to Madrid and together with Ana del Castillo, who had the experience of having run the ambigú cafeteria of the Infanta Isabel theater, they set up Sumer. “We made a good tandem. I in management and he in the kitchen”, she explains. Time has given them reason.
Zaza and Ana started in a small place on Calle Magallanes in 2014. They moved to another with a terrace at Bravo Murillo, 17, and in September of last year they moved to a much larger space on the same street, where they have kept elements from the previous bar “We have been changing because the spaces have become too small for us,” says Ana. The key to its success, apart from the hospitality of the people who work in Sumer, is the simplicity of its street food proposal, its location and their prices (5 euros for the doner kebab sandwich). “We do everything by hand,” says Zaza. “We make the dough for the doner kebab with our hands, we assemble the meat skewer and we also make Turkish desserts like baklava (a pistachio and phyllo pastry bathed in syrup),” she says.
Zaza cuts the kebab meat skewer in his restaurant Sumer, in Madrid.Almudena Ávalos
The meat from the rotating skewer, characteristic of this type of establishment, is assembled here fillet by fillet after a marinating process. It varies according to the week and can be beef, chicken or beef mixed with lamb. “The parts of the veal that we select have to have enough fat to withstand the heat and we marinate them with black pepper, rosemary and oregano. However, for the chicken we use other spices such as red pepper and thyme”, he states. “Then we let the meat rest overnight. The next day we place the fillets, one on top of the other, around the skewer, giving it shape and then cutting it with a knife. This is how I learned to do it in my family’s restaurants, in the same way as in Turkey”, says Zaza. “The important thing to differentiate ourselves is to have everything very fresh. And for that you have to calculate very well, ”says Ana. The kebab sauce is created with natural yogurt, they add a little mayonnaise, dill, parsley and garlic. “In Turkey it is eaten without sauce or just with yogurt, but here we adapt it to the Spanish taste,” she says.
With the masses of the pita breads, which they later bake, they follow the same philosophy. “The masses have to rest well and before each service we dedicate a few hours to prepare them.” Especially if it’s the weekend, where the pace is frenetic, both in the living room and on the terrace. “About 60 can come out of döner kebab alone, but the menu does not end here,” says Ana. “Groups come in which some want Turkish pizzas, others kebabs, some who do not eat any meat ask for vegetable dishes, and all share a table ”, explains Ana. For this reason, their offer includes other vegetarian dishes such as hummus (4.90 euros for a half portion) or chickpea falafel with vegetables (5 euros for a half portion of four pieces).
In Sumer, pita bread is made by hand and the meat is marinated with spices in the same place.Almudena Ávalos
Another factor that distinguishes them from similar businesses is that Zaza and Ana think of their establishments as meeting places. “In the first bar we would play chess and when it was full of people who wanted to eat, we would ask them to finish the game another day”, he recalls laughing. “In the upper part of this place, every two Saturdays, a philosophy group meets that used to do so at the Ateneo. They propose a topic, some references and have a colloquium. There is a more or less stable group and another is open to everyone”, explains Ana. A humble fast food place designed over low heat.