You know what they say about buses, right? You wait ages for one, and then three turn up at once? Well, I am a self declared transport expert, and the people who say this are not, so please, take this advice with a pinch of salt.
However, it also serves as a handy metaphor for things where for ages there was zero amount of a commodity (for instance, frogs, gin, golf), but now there are millions of them. Shawarma can now be added to this list of things, the “bus things” list.
Over the last couple of days I have been in or around the Charing Cross area of Glasgow of the evening, as there are a couple of very good pubs in the area. The State Bar is a Glasgow institution, and has won several CAMRA awards on account of the goodness of the pub, you’ve got the Hippo Taproom which is probably Glasgow’s best crafty beer pub bar, and a half decent Wetherspoons to boot. And there are also some bad pubs as well, but I don’t wanna go down that road. This is a kebab blog, Sir.
So on Friday night I went to…
“Hold on a minute. The blog title says ‘A tale of two Kings” – but this isn’t a King”
Well, actually… it is! Ish. Until about 2015, this place was called Kings Cafe, and was a favourite haunt of people who went there. However – there weren’t enough of these people, myself occasionally included, so they shut up shop and they were taken over briefly by Steak, Cattle and Roll, a gourmet burger place. However! GET THIS RIGHT??? Steak, Cattle and Roll never actually moved in! They got a bigger place round the corner! HA! So that was it, the King’s Cafe closed, but then this place opened, and been here for ages, and I’ve never been in.
On Thursday, as I was heading to the pub from Charing Cross station, I cut up Elmbank Street to nip to Tescos, and as I was walking by, the big flashy sign caught my eye. Now, in that photo above, where the sign says PIZZA, it didn’t say PIZZA. NO. It said “SHAWARMA”. And then it went blank. And then it said “LAMB”. And then it went blank. I was transfixed! Then it said something else, but no matter, I was already halfway through the door.
It was 11pm, in good kebab shop tradition, the lamb had long sold out, so I had a chicken shawarma wrap, which looked like this:
So as you can see, it’s got a fucking spacesuit on, this one. But why? Well, physics tell us that a warm object can and will lose its “heat” as a “transfer” of “energy” and “radiation” and “ting”, and shiny paper will protect against this. Or, it could be a marketing thing, I don’t know.
The food itself was very very good – the chap filled the wrap with frankly far too much meat, but the salad and pickles worked well to balance – it was a remarkably juicy affair, though the space jacket thinger did protect against getting sauce down my shirt, so a plus point there – cost wise I think it was just north of £4, so not unreasonable for the part of town it’s in – all in all, pretty good. Only negative thing I can really say here is that the guy behind the counter asked if I wanted spicy sauce, and the sauce I got wasn’t spicy in the slightest. Hey ho, was still good, though.
What a difference 24 hours and 50 metres makes:
What can one say about this place? Well, this is very handy for the aforementioned Hippo Taproom – it’s right next door! On a good evening, you can have a shandy or two downstairs, then come up here and have a kebab for dinner before setting off on your merry way. This, and they are brand new! The last few times I’d walked by, they had signs up advertising for staff, so welcome King’s to the crowded late night snack market! I sincerely hope you do well. This visit didn’t fill me with massively high hopes, but early days.
Now, this photo, much like every other photo on shawarmapolice.com, doesn’t tell the whole story. No Sir! In order to see quite why this was a bad wrap, we need to unwrap it, and there was no way I could have done that at this time, on a busy Friday night in town. As such, instead here’s a stock photo I’ve nicked off of the Wikipedia:
Behold, atop the wrap are a series of scorch marks for where the shawarma wrap goes in the panini grill. This is standard practise across the board – the wrap is placed in the grill to heat it, to seal it, and some say it brings out a little extra flavour.
My wrap did not go in the panini grill. I stood, smiling, looking round to see where it was, but couldn’t see it. My guess is they haven’t got one. Never mind. However, when I unwrapped the meal, the problems became apparent. Having not been sealed properly, and overloaded with meat, half of it nearly ended up on the pavement – luckily, I caught it in the paper in time, so crisis averted. The wrap itself was a little colder than I would have liked – again – something a minute in a grill could have sorted?
It wasn’t an outright bad experience – the quality of the chicken was good – sauce was a bit bland but overall it was ok, the staff were nice, and as I say, early days. Same as ‘Babs in that regard – I’ll hopefully pay them another visit at some point to see if they’ve got any better.
So – the two Kings – three if you include Shawarma King from last week. Shawarma King is very much the daddy of the three. However, Moretto, which does actually say “King’s Cafe” as a subtitle, and so it’s allowed, is a surprisingly good find. I wasn’t expecting it to be any different from most of the takeaways in that part of town, so I was throughly impressed. Kings, not so much.
Moretto – top of Elmbank Street, opposite the Griffin: 8/10
Kings – 325 Sauchiehall Street, next to Hippo Taprooms: 5/10