IT’S lunchtime in the city. On that side of the Clyde where pedestrians rarely linger. I pace up and down Kingston Street looking for a curious little place that I’ve swept past in the full throttle commuter traffic – too quickly to see inside.

Not this block, not that one either, behind those steamy windows, maybe? I see hard hats inside, fluorescent jackets in many different colours, so maybe not, but hang on there’s a grill roaring at full throttle, chickens pirouetting on a roaster, kitschy table cloths, bustling and hustling, platters being carried high.

Say five minutes after I sit down there will be a man standing in front of me with his hands held wide, like he’s describing the one that got away and telling me their fatayer are very big. Maybe better if he just makes me a small one?

Okay, I’ll say. With za’atar and muhamarra please. And a falafel wrap too, and how about half of one of those chickens whose juices are dripping irresistibly from the spit over there? With rice, he’ll ask teasingly, or chips, his eyes crinkling warmly at the sheer volume I’m ordering.

I’ll mention chubbiness by way of explanation, he’ll promise to make me some Arabic tea after to help me recover. And run me to the hospital.

We laugh like old pals.

What is this place though? Syrian, I’m guessing. But today flooded with construction workers from that monster building site across the road. Earlier two of those same workers held up the menu for me to see as I looked in the window.

A whole row of them now sit, legs swinging, on the window bench, like one of those old New York skyscraper photos. But in the pastel blues, creamy oranges and faintly yellow logo-ed jackets of their thoroughly modern employers.

I hear as-salaam-alaikum (peace be upon you) being shouted cheerily as customers swing in the door, masks on.

I hear the guy behind the counter hollering: “No problem, pal, thanks” as departing workers drift out. So polite, I think.

A married couple chat, heads together, over a falafel lunch at the table across from me, a lone man declines the repeated offer of a plate for his shawarma and unrolls triumphantly instead its greaseproof wrapping across his table. It seems there are pages of this bright glossy menu devoted just to fatayer, and a man dedicated to shuttling them in and out of the oven mounted on the wall behind me, its doors opening and shutting, opening and shutting.

I tear at the light, pillowy and freshly-fired dough of my fatayer, the herby, spicy, almost crunchy oregano and sumac of the za’atar scorched appetisingly into its surface, red strands of muhammara in decoration.

Now, it will turn out the only roasting chickens that are ready have been bagged earlier over the phone. Tariq will come back over to tell me this as I begin the falafel. Correct. We’re now on first name terms – it being that kind of place.

Umm, what to have instead? Mandi rice plate, fattoush, tabbouleh, shish taouk?

What did you bring those guys? I ask, nodding towards the window benches. Hummus shawarma chicken, I’m told, though it’s whispered the lamb is best. I order up.

That falafel? Broad bean and chick pea patties, tahini sauce, spices, fried, crisped and then rolled in fresh flatbread which is seared until it’s deliciously crisp in some places, still soft in others. Salty, sweet yet crisply acidic multi-coloured pickles on the side. The whole a comfort-orama diorama.

The shawarma arrives. The flatbread as appetisingly prepared, but this time after rolling it’s cross-cut into finger-size bites, placed on end, juices dripping, flavours charging, the meat alternatively caramelised and tender. Boom. Good.

I’ll extract a promise from Tariq that if I phone, say, two hours in advance, I can pick up a chicken that will be super-moist, perfectly cooked.

Crikey, I am pleased I found this place.


55 Kingston Street


0141 237 2780

Menu: Proper shawarma, big pizza-shaped fatayer; falafel wraps and many other Syrian dishes. 4/5

Service: Busy, friendly guys on a bustling lunchtime who still took time to pause and chat. 5/5

Atmosphere: Kitschy tablecloths, window bench seats, flaring grills and packed with workers and diners. 4/5

Price: The whole thing including a mug of tea to finish cost me £13. Those fatayer start at £3 or so. 5/5

Food: I don’t think anything goes to a table without somebody behind the counter first having asked whether it’s going to taste good. 7/10