First Look: ‘Babs Glasgow on West Nile Street

via 'Babs Glasgow Facebook page.
via 'Babs Glasgow Facebook page.

They opened three days ago. We’d usually leave it a bit longer before visiting, let things bed in, but we walked past at lunchtime and the place looked busy and inviting. Inside they’ve gone to town with the Eastern Mediterranean vibe, Greek Europop on the stereo, bright, slightly kitsch interior with lots of tiles and a modern open kitchen at the back.

Charcoal-fired gourmet kebabs made using “ethical and local Scottish seasonal produce” are the order of the day. Up until now, it’s been difficult to prioritise the ethics and provenance of kebabs in Glasgow, but now you have that option…

Their hearts are in the right place here, and it’s a sound concept. Not revolutionary though. Glasgow does have Greek and Turkish restaurants dotted around the city where kebabs go far beyond what you might expect from late night fast food joints – which have their own proven appeal (see Best Kebab on Dundas Street at 1am).

The team from Bread Meats Bread have brought us ‘Babs and the Shakshuka Burger on the menu here plays to their strengths. A BMB burger topped with smoked Scamorza cheese and a spiced baked egg in marinara sauce, served with a crispy onion, tomato and cucumber salad. It’s cut in half and finished on the grill. There’s also a standard cheeseburger, using the same award-winning beef patties. Add those to Glasgow’s burger circuit.

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The ‘Babs doner kebab was off the menu, our server explained. Grassfed and dry aged beef doner, made in-house, spit grilled and wrapped in a thin brioche flatbread, served with garlic aioli, pickled onions, red cabbage and cucumbers, with a Harissa chilli sauce (£7). We arrived mid-lunch service, presumably this had sold out before we got here – the place has already attracted the attention of nearby office workers.

We ordered the chicken sharwarma. Yoghurt and spice marinated free-range chicken, grilled on a spit. Wrapped with a garlic aoili, house pickled cucumbers and tomatoes. Served with a choice of a Harissa chilli sauce or a sweet pepper Ajvar dip (£6.5).

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So, here’s the thing. We were very happy with the standard of the marinated chicken. It lacked embellishment. Four slices of pickled cucumber. Two cherry tomatoes. We don’t usually count, but it’s a pretty stark sight.

Considering they come from a background where layering burgers with interesting topping combinations made their name, this was slightly disappointing.

Let’s not take away from the fact that the scharwarma and wrap were positively inhaled – we started attacking it with knife and fork but ended up just using our hands, street food style. They’ve the meat side of things sorted. Dress the dish up a bit.

Sharwarma preparations take lots of different forms. If the idea here is to just package up tasty meats in flatbreads, there’s a market for that. We were looking for more. Glancing around, it’s possible that’s to be found elsewhere in the menu, but given the concept, you would expect the sharwarma to have more of a signature dish feel.

This was a quick bite and ‘Babs had us served and out of there within an hour. If we returned we’d explore a bit more of the menu. Tzatziki and babaganoush small plates, beetroot infused falafels, lamb skewers. Donuts and baklava for dessert. Maybe a schooner of the ‘Babs house lager.

Open your doors and you will be judged on every dish. Even on a Tuesday afternoon. There’s Eastern promise here and by the looks of things they’re already busy. Hit a level of consistency, add in some culinary flourishes and ‘Babs may be able to establish a reputation to match their high ideals.

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