THERE’S a bit of joshing going on at the counter behind me and I listen as I sit on a plastic chair and stare otherwise idly out upon the splendours of an overcast King Street car park.

“Where is Hajar tonight?” the customer is saying. “He’s not in just now,” comes the reply. “What …” the customer says, laughing. “He needs to be in here every day, all night if he wants to stay at the top.”

Now I think it was Hajar that served me the last time I was in here. He came bustling out from the back shop just as the lady behind the counter was explaining over the heads of other customers that they had no tabbouleh that day, and had said, “I’ll make you a tabbouleh myself”.

Adding, “Take a seat”, while pointing at the plank-width counter at the window. There was just enough of a tone of proprietorial pride in it to make me think, hey, this is the boss.

Tonight it’s quiet but there’s a steady drift of customers through the door, standing at the counter making small-talk as chicken shawarmas and lamb shawarmas visibly brown on their revolving skewers.

The meats, in case you are wondering, are no amorphous mixed minced doner mess, but appetisingly layered stacks of individual fillets. They brown and caramelise and sizzle as they turn. Clear juices trickling down.

That famous Maillard reaction that turns sugars into meaty flavours somewhere between 300 and 500 degrees is happening before the very eyes.

It’s making me hungry. I’ll confess: I’ve already had a mixed shawarma tonight. A few moments ago. Eating those crisp and juicy meats wrapped in a freshly toasted, still elastic-y nan bread that the guy behind the counter had told me they had made from scratch today themselves.

“Is that unusual in Glasgow?” I had asked as I delved into it, tasting the marinade, tomatoes, cucumber, flashes of their

homemade garlic sauce, and tasting that crunchy meatiness.

“Not so much now,” he says honestly. “A couple of years ago there was just us and one other place, now a lot more places have started making their own.”

Behind him, at the back of this tiny shop, in a tandoor oven, a very long skewer of marinated barbecue chicken is cooking for me, occasionally being whipped out to check its colour, assess its sizzle. Fifteen minutes for that tonight, I’d been told when I came in.

Ah, well, the charcoal grill isn’t on this Tuesday evening so no Kurdish lamb kebabs. I might as well wait and watch and see what this place is all about. And while I’m doing that, could you make me up a fattoush salad with pomegranate sauce and toasted pitta bread? Oh, and I’ll have that mixed shawarma right now if you don’t mind.

The curious thing at Hajar’s Shawarma King is that it’s not really in the heart of Glasgow’s kebab country. Not in the kiss-me-quick parts of town where people traditionally stoat out of pubs and grab a late-night fat bomb.

It’s kind of adrift under a railway arch, cut off from customers by two wide-ish

fast-flowing roads that have to be negotiated like river rapids and just about at ground central of Glasgow’s vegan restaurant scene.

Yet what brought me in the first time was that, whenever I wandered past, it had been busy. Not pub trade; largely customers who seem to drive up and nip in.

The other curious thing is that even though the humble kebab is being gentrified – kebab-themed restaurants opening up here and there – the number of places selling actual, genuine not-doner kebabs has always been hard to find.

As I wrap that barbecued chicken in some fresh nan, fork up a fattoush tingling with dressing, I’m thinking that this is the real deal. A bit of pride in what they do about it all. Attention to detail. The real secret of success. It doesn’t really matter where you are – if you’re good enough.

Shawarma King

99-113 King Street 
Glasgow (0141 258 1870) Opening hours: 
10am-midnight daily


It’s a kebab shop but don’t let that alarm you. No doners, but proper shawarmas, sizzling caramelised meats AND punchy salads. 4/5

Hey, it’s under a railway arch, on the wrong side of some roads, but the customers give it a feel. 

You order your food and there are a few chairs if you want to sit and eat it there. Pleasant, friendly and helpful. 5/5
Fattoush was £4, large mixed shawarma wrap £6, that chicken barbecue £5. A bargain. 

They make their own nans, sauces and properly prepare, marinate and grill the meats. Simple, not fashionable, but hard to beat. 8/10

Total: 26/30