Babylon Cafe, Glasgow


As I was listenin’ to the rather wonderful, if not clumsily titled Alt. 90s from 6 Music Celebrates the other week there, Mr Oizo’s Flat Beat came on, and it led me to lament the demise of the Levi’s Advert Number One Thing that was a thing in, well, the 90s.

Quite why I lamented it, I do not know. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, but the adverts themselves weren’t all that, and the songs that were featured weren’t all that good – good enough, I guess, to be on an advert and sell jeans – but get this, kids! If your tune was lucky enough to be selected by the ad agency, it was going to the top of the hit parade. Flat Beat was one such UK chart number one single – a quirky French dance track which went “wuuub wuuub wub wub, wuuub wuuub wub wub, wuuub wuuub wub wub, wub wub wub wub wub wub wub wub wub”. The promo video for the tune featured “Flat Eric”, a kind of squashed and elongated Gordon T. Gopher, and had nothing to do with trouser.

Another number one bought to us by popular denim merchants Levis (yes, you guessed it, well done – you saw the title and you’ve made the connection) – was Spaceman by Babylon Zoo. This song was so bad, according to the press at the time, that a DJ sped it up to make it listenable, and the result was Levis etc and it done a number one. This song went “Space man, I always wanted you to go into space, man! (intergalactic Christ)”, and was either a song about suicide, a break up, or an industrial reverse retelling of Chris de Burgh’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling”. We will never know.

The Babylon Cafe in Glasgow has never been to number one in the pop charts, nor can you buy jeans there, but you can buy this:

The Babylon Cafe is what I would call a hidden gem in the Glasgow kebab world. I say hidden – if you go back to the beginning and look at the photo, you’ll notice that it has a VERY LARGE SIGN on the side telling people what it is. This VERY LARGE SIGN is on a VERY BUSY BUS CORRIDOR and gets lots of passing traffic – yet few seem to have heard of it. Ahh well – their loss, I guess.

Why is it good? Well, for one thing, Babylon Cafe were actually one of the first shawarma places in Glasgow – well, the first one I was aware of – and this was in 2012, well before the recent trend for decent kebabs. They are consistently good – and simple – just lamb or chicken (or both), lightly spiced, in a garlic sauce with what I would suggest is the best Levantine pickle in town – and the wrap tastes exactly as it did 7 years ago – no deterioration in quality.

Then there’s the fact that it’s been absolutely flattened in a sandwich press. Here’s a side on view:

OK, so they say that the camera never lies, but this is a bad photo. It doesn’t show how two dimensional this thing really is – or why this is a good thing. Y’see – as I’ve mentioned in the past – if you put a wrap in a press, it warms the centre, seals the wrap, and gives it a toasty, rather than bready, flavour – all good things. At the Babylon they *really* grill these until they’re basically a Middle Eastern panini (or a spatchcocked Fajita if you’re so inclined).

Any downsides? Well, at £4 a pop they’re extremely reasonable – but they’re also quite small compared to, say, Shawarma King, Kurdistan Shawarma or Kurdish Street Food – but then, given I struggle to finish the latter – is this a bad thing? No! Though I wouldn’t want to encourage them to make them any smaller, lets put it that way…

Babylon Cafe, Clyde Place, Glasgow

Lamb Shawarma Wrap (from memory £4 – may be £4.50)


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