Bridge Street, Glasgow

I’M eating fresh Borek as I write this.There are two different Turkish cheeses inside that, the man behind the counter assures me; spinach, layers of comforting pastry. This large portion costs £3. I also have a bun Borek on the table – similarly salty, savoury, verdant filling, a glossy glazed exterior (£1.50). A cup of strong Turkish tea. 

Behind the counter here, at the Istanbul Cake and Baklava on Glasgow’s Bridge Street, row upon row of spectacular pastries sit. Customers drift in and out having different flavoured baklava picked out and boxed up, as the telly blares and counter staff chat. 
It’s got a vibe.

Funnily enough this is not where I’m reviewing this week. But as we’re slap bang in the middle of a secret culinary rectangle I thought I would mention it anyway. 

Oh, and I’ll also mention the Bab Al-Hara Market round the corner, where earlier they made me a fabulous Manakish Za’atar. 

Think of a pizza-shaped, bubbled flatbread straight from that huge clay oven they have sitting right at the front door (you don’t even need to go into the supermarket bit), served on a slice of greaseproof paper, sizzling with that tangy sumac and deep thyme topping. All for, erm, £2. Yes, £2. 

The Herald: Palmtree Kitchen exteriorPalmtree Kitchen exterior (Image: Gordon Terris)
Fabulous street food then. It’s three quid if you want to go completely mad and order the one with the minced meat and cheese on top. But it’s still only £1 for a bag of three of these big, bubbly un-topped flatbreads they make in their hundreds daily. 

Now, when I was in the Palmtree Kitchen the other night –  almost across the road from the Bab – and the man from Yemen (everybody who works in here is from Yemen, he tells me) is delivering my lamb soup, a sort of freebie starter, and piling up the flat bread, I ask him this: “Do you get that bread from the Bab Al-Hara over there?”
No, no he says, this is Arabic bread, that is tandoor bread over there. 

Ah. Now he says it, they are slightly different, especially in the bubbling. 
Suitably educated, I order up a bowl of wet beans (£4.99), which will turn out to be deliciously spiced white beans, the bowl packed with coriander, tomato, potato sticks and all in a light savoury broth – even though the dish is from their all-day breakfast menu.  

On the side I still have a proper tabbouleh, made almost entirely of the darkest green chopped parsley, dressed with lemon and oil, salted and vibrantly almost glowing.
And still I’m picking my way through a platter of hummus, falafel (freshly made and almost creamily good), sambousa, (think samosa, also freshly made from scratch, wonderful pastry and moist, lightly curried filling) plus popping a couple of their own stuffed vine leaves, bit of lamb action here, as I go. 

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Now, not being familiar with Yemeni food I make a schoolboy ordering error. Instead of picking a lamb mandi (one of the national dishes of Yemen apparently) I randomly order a lamb kabsa and a chicken zurbian. 

Why? Honestly? It took Mr Google too long to load up on Yemeni cuisine. 
Normally if I want spiced roasted chicken I’ll walk round the corner to the left and ask them to take one down from the spit at the Tarbush Restaurant (£6.99 for a half plus rice and pickles). 

And at first I kinda think I’ve ordered something similar here. But I haven’t. At all. 
The half chicken in this zurbian doesn’t quite have the sparkle of the just-from-the-spit version, but the basmati, deeply, unctuously spiced and seasoned is so full of flavour I could eat it alone. 

The lamb kabsa, however, is more of a hard-core rice dish containing apparently half a kilo of local lamb, set amidst a sea of rice, coloured, if not greatly flavoured, by onion, cardamom and saffron with a sprinkling of that kabsa spicing. 

That’s a yes to the first dish; a not sure on the second. 

But listen? Where I am – in Glasgow’s Tradeston district – it’s all about choice. 



22 Bridge Street 


Tel: 0141-228-2562 


Menu: Yemeni restaurant with Biryanis, Mandis, Zurbians, Wet Beans and, of course, falafel, Arabic bread, sambusas and soups. 4/5

Service: Nice guys and all from the Yemen, happy to chat and very knowledgeable. 5/5

Price: Tabbouleh comes in at £4.99, the appetisers £8.99 for a sizeable mix and mains hover around a tenner. 4/5

Atmosphere: Quite the night I was in, telly showing MBC news, few other customers but big airy old place. 3/5

Food: A bowl of Maraq comes free, fabulous sambusa, and all starters very actually very good, liked the Chicken Zurbian a lot, 7/10

Total: 23/20