You find me on an Easter Sunday afternoon sitting at a pub table, with an empty bottle of J20 and a pint of bitter. The FA Cup Semi Final is on the TV (currently 0-0), and, having just eaten two shawarma wraps in the space of an hour, I’m beginning to question my life choices. What follows is a series of words in which I try to convince you, the reader, and also me, that this was a worthwhile way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and not just outright gluttony.
First, a potted history of the commercial unit at 113 King Street, in the Merchant City, a railway arch unit just around the corner from the High Court. Going back in time on Google Street View, I can see it’s had several uses – in 2008, as smartphones were in their infancy and yours truly had a Motorola flip phone with mp3 ringtones and superfast 2g connectivity, the unit was “MobileDirect”, a bits and bobs shop where you could (presumably) get the latest case for your Nokia 3310.
Fast forward to 2009, and the shop is now “The Flower Kiosk” – selling flowers for all occasions! Weddings! Funerals! Bouquets! Hand ties! Now, I’m no expert on floristry, but I reckon only two of those things are occasions – the latter two appear to be different styles of flower arrangement.
Whilst I wouldn’t like to speculate on the fate of the Flower Kiosk, by 2012 the unit was empty, and so we skip to 2014 where we see a now familiar shopfront:
And thus it remained ever since…
EXCEPT… Not quite.
You see, an entity known as Shawarma King has indeed been on that site since somewhere between 2012-2014 to now, and over the years has developed a reputation as being one of the best kebab shops in Glasgow – winning this years Best Kebab Shop in Scotland award at the British Kebab awards. However, ownership has changed over this time, and is where we turn to the Hajar years!
Again, I can’t point to exact dates here, but Street View first shows us the shop being called “Hajars Shawarma King” in a photo dated July 2017…
And so, with the addition of Hajar’s name, came expansion, contraction, and then an outright upping of sticks in relatively swift succession – by 2018, Hajar’s Shawarma King had acquired both a) a MASSIVE SIGN (still mainly there today):
…and a second site in Paisley’s East End,
Paisley was short lived – Street View shows the site at 62 Glasgow Road as being “Pathans” in 2019. Hajar wasn’t to remain in Glasgow either…
Though Hajar’s were quick to clarify for those who have may have misread the original post…
And so, that was that. Shawarma King had reached a fork in the road, with the management of the original site at King Street staying put, and the management heading east on the M8 to start life anew in Edinburgh – but this still is not the end of the story.
In April 2021 – Shawarma King (the Edinburgh one, formerly the Glasgow/Paisley one) done a Facebook post, where they said this:
This was about to get confusing. My interpretation of this was that Glasgow was to have two different Shawarma King’s – owned by different people. Fortunately, this didn’t quite transpire – upon opening the new place on Sauchiehall St (Number 450a, in the old “Indian Gallery” unit), they retained the “Hajar’s” name whilst dropping the King – just to be known as “Hajar’s Shawarma” – and, finally, I can say this is where we are now – in the present. Here endeth the history lesson!
Now, what with the title of this here blogpost being called “Shawarma King vs Hajar’s Shawarma”, no prizes will be awarded for correctly guessing what I did that Easter Sunday – I went to both restaurants and compared like for like. I figured that, considering the shared heritage, the final product would be similar so if I visited each location on different days, I probably wouldn’t notice the difference. Eating one after the other, however, would give me a better way of comparing the two – if I can still taste the former whilst eating the latter, it’ll provide me with a fairly solid basis for a fair comparison.
So I did.
We have two restaurants of high caliber here – Shawarma King have won countless awards, and Hajars refer to themselves as “The OG” – so let’s cut to the chase and see how they compare. The rules were simple – two mixed shawarma wraps, no extras.
Firstly, Shawarma King. This place filled up fairly quickly after I took this photo – the queue was out the door, and this was about quarter to four in the afternoon. If you look closely, there are still hints of previous ownership – Hajar’s and the Paisley store appear to have been painted over or taped over. I went in, paid my £5, and waited a good fifteen minutes for my wrap – this isn’t in my experience the usual wait time, I’d just timed my run poorly that day and happened to rock up just at the same time as a couple of mass orders.
The food – I’ll say now – was a straight 10/10. A decent sized wrap with plenty of lightly seasoned meat – juicy but not greasy – with a decent salad ratio (maybe could have done with a bit more) and plenty of pickles! On previous visits, I’ve only really had one issue with Shawarma King – the warmth. The wraps used to go cold really quickly for some reason – but not on this occasion – maybe they’re leaving it longer in the sandwich press? Who knows, and I guess, who cares. It was wonderful. Only thing I’d say – probably could have done with a bit more sauce, but the meat was juicy enough that this wasn’t really a concern.
A brisk, bloated walk across town was to follow! I was stuffed after eating that, and my inner monologue preceded to tell me on no less than 14 separate occasions in the space of the 20 minute walk that I was an idiot and I should get a proper hobby, like birdwatching, or golf. Undeterred, I marched on!
Now, the one thing you don’t want to do on a full stomach is to go and eat something even larger than the thing that made you full, and I have to confess my memory is to blame here – I seemed to recall that Shawarma King offered the bigger regular wrap of the two. I was wrong.
Hajar’s was – in itself, a very good meal – I have visited on many different occasions and have yet to give the place a write up which is remarkably remiss of me. Better late than never, I suppose! As previously remarked, the “regular” sized wrap was generous – I’ve seen smaller “large” wraps. Service was fairly speedy – in and out in about 5 minutes, and the composition was near enough perfect again – plenty of sauce in this one, not a whole load of salad, a few pickles.
I’ve set this review up as a comparison so in this context – on balance, Shawarma King have the edge. Eating one after the other meant that my palate picked up on a distinction I wouldn’t normally notice – and that is the saltiness. Hajar’s isn’t overly salty – hence I expect to make repeat visits! – but it is saltier – and this reflects in the final score. If you scroll up and compare the two photos, you’ll also notice that the latter (Hajar’s) is slightly greasier on the wrapping paper – and this was before I took a bite. This being said – grease isn’t necessarily a bad thing – too much grease is, but I think Hajar’s was well within acceptable limits.
This being said, it’s not a zero sum game. They’re different, and I have made my preference known. Neither were bad – in fact, if I were to do a top 10, possibly a top 5 of Glasgow shawarma places – both would feature – and I’d go to either depending on where I was – if I was on Sauchiehall Street, I’d head there, same as I’d head to Shawarma King if I were on the High Street, or Shawarma Grill if in Cessnock, or Kurdish Street Food if I was near Allison Street.
Final scores then:
Shawarma King, King Street: 10/10
Hajar(‘s) Shawarma, Sauchiehall Street: 9/10.
(usually I post price information but alas I didn’t think to put that in my drafts, and this was three weeks ago. Shawarma King was I believe a fiver, possibly £5.50. Hajar’s about £6. Will update when I get the time to check!)