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Not so long ago I had to go to Beirut on Business, everyone I spoke to told me stories of how dangerous Beirut was, the civil war, the bombings, the kidnappings, and the list went on.
So the day came for my trip and I was anxious, to say the least, as I boarded my Emirates flight from Dubai, the Business Class section was empty, this felt even more ominous.
We landed in Rafiq Hariri International Airport I saw an SUV with armed guards, this did not bode well.
While I was collecting my luggage the electricity cut out and for a few minutes, we stood in pitch darkness waiting for the old decrepit generators to kick in.
The airport staff looked really shifty, they sat drinking tea and observed us coldly, honestly, it was like the most cliched Hollywood Middle Eastern movie.
When I cleared customs I was in the arrivals lounge and a guy approached me in tight ripped jeans and a T-shirt that struggled to hold his ample belly and asked if I needed a taxi, the word taxi was used in its loosest term, old battered Mercedes cars from the 1970s were de rigour, and then the drivers started to fight amongst themselves as who would take the fare.
This got me more and more anxious, I chose the least bashed up a taxi with the oldest driver, if I had to make a run for it at least I could outrun an old guy rather a than a young fit driver.
The airport road was lined by shanty towns, makeshift housing with bullet holes and scars from the years-old civil war, the brickwork was scorched with fire and I started to regret the whole endeavor.
We entered a road tunnel with every other tube light shot out and there was literally no light at the end of the tunnel
But when we exited the tunnel, it was as if we had been teleported back to Dubai, there were smart new buildings everywhere, the roads were spotless and the verges were immaculate.
The driver dropped me off at an area called Mar Micheal, the shops were like Bond Street, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Lora Piana, Armani etc
I was staying a the Four Seasons at Zeituna Bay and that was like a page out of Archtuicetural Digest. There were hips bars and boutiques everywhere and the local Lebanese were dressed as if they were fashion photoshoot.
The point to my story was If I had taken Beirut at my initial impression, I would have turned back and missed this amazing cosmopolitan and fun city.
This is exactly what Shawarma King is like, it is located outside the old Barras Market under an old railway bridge, in a hole in the wall, its easy to drive past it.
I went there with Mokee and Shai Foodwala’s, I was not expecting great things but I moved past me misgivings.
There are only two old tables and chairs so we ordered and we fashioned a table by putting a table cloth on the boot of my car
First up we went for the Falafal and Hummus, this was served with hot Lavash bread fresh from the tandoor like oven, The falafals were crispy on the outside and pillow soft in the inside, and the Hummus was lovely and creamy and with just enough viscosoty to make it delicious.
The Turkish Kebab was a hybrid Adana kebab, it was smokey and spicy, absulutely delicious with the fresh bread
and onions sprinkled with harissa, such delisiousness from humbleness
We decided to go off menu and ask for Hummus with burnt ends shawarma, what a combination, the burnt ends of lamb Shawarma were juicy and intence and combined with the creamy hummus it was a master stroke
The Chicken Shawarma was what i can only descibe as delicious, the chicken was well seasoned and parts were nice and crispy and parts were soft and juicy, served on the nan like bread and what a combination, the juices of the chicken soaked into the bread and what a flavour bomb!!
We decided to take the lamb Shawarma with rice, and yet again it did not disapoint, the lamb Shawarma was burnt and crispy in parts and soft in others, again absulutely deloicious.
The Shawarma King was delicious, each elemant was fresh and made with true passion.
The Shawarma was simple yet delicious , the Turkish/Adana Kebab was spot on the Kebab was not mined but chopped finely and was a perfect consistency.
The Service was perfunctory, neither excellent nor poor, it was just functional and friendly.
We fashioned the boot of the Mercedes as a table and Glasgow evening was perfect, the chill was just decending and standing and eating the delicious Shawarma as amazing.
The Star of the Meal?
TheTurkish/Adana Kebab and the chicken and lamb shawarma were definately stars
The miss of the Meal?
I would be pedantic if i was to choose.
So how did Shawarma peers?
It definately held its own against Allo Beirut in Dubai, Pita Shawarma in Baku Azerbijan and SUD in Mar Micheal Beirut
The Chicken, Beef, and Lamb is confirmed 100% Halal
NO Alcohol is served on the Premises
NO Pork is served on the Premises
100% impartial Guarantee
Alfie Foodwala visits all restaurants anonymously and pays for the bill like any other customer, Alfie Foodwala does not except free meals in return for meals
All reviews are the personal opinion of Alfie Foodwala based on his 30-year experience as a restauranteur.