Scotsman Review
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August 16, 2017

'Babs, restaurant review, Glasgow

If you can get past the chewy meat, there's lots to like at Glasgow's 'Babs, says Gaby Soutar

It’s been a long time since I had a very late night.

However, a couple of decades ago, when out on the razzle or the randan, I was always a bit horrified by the buddies who’d scoff doner kebabs in the early hours.

I would never want splotches of chilli sauce down my best outfit, or to eat in virtual darkness like some kind of nocturnal rainforest mammal.

Like a young fogey, I’d go home and have mashed bananas on toast instead. Still, don’t confuse this place, which is not named after Windsor, Woodhouse, Bush or Streisand, with your bog-standard late night ultraviolet-lit feral takeaway joint.

There’s no sweating doner pirouetting in the window.

In the former premises of a hairdresser (hence no drinks licence yet, they’re currently BYOB, corkage £1), it’s been created by the canny team behind small Scottish burger chain Bread Meats Bread, with a menu of “gourmet kebabs” and other stuff influenced by this genre’s Greek, Turkish and Levantine heritage.

You’d imagine they’re attempting to draw in a younger crowd, as the prices are reasonable, and contrastingly patterned tables and plates are ridiculously Instagrammable.

If you don’t want to go straight to the main event, there are a few nibbly bits on the list – olives (£2.50) or bread (£2.50). We tried the dip and pita (£3.50), with a choice of tzatziki, hummus, ajvar or baba ganoush.

The aubergine option, with three fat half moons of thick and doughy pita, was rather nice and cumin-scented, though I wasn’t that sold on the addition of a sweet pepper ingredient, which kind of took over, like a drunken uncle gatecrashing a party.

For his main course, my other half went for the most expensive dish of surf and turf ‘bab (£12) – a concept that held so much promise.

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There were steak chunks, which smelled barbecue-tastic, but, unfortunately, became the bullets in a meaty game of Russian roulette, as half of them were gristly and indigestible.

Two large slabs of tuna steak weren’t bad, though maybe needed a bit more seasoning, as did the mattress of pea purée. Other odds and sods included blistered cherry tomatoes, half a pickled carrot, piquant chillies, dots of red onion purée and pieces of char-surfaced bap, which weren’t quite soft enough to mop or wrap anything up, so kind of redundant and medieval looking.

Ach, a shame all the separate components didn’t come together, a bit like a charity shop jigsaw.

My option of lamb shish (£7.50) featured similarly flavoursome cubes of meat that were also half delicious and half ever-lasting chewing gum.

Great extras though, like a good disc of pita, violet-coloured and zingy pickled cabbage, cucumber and peppers, plus a blob of paprika-dusted velvety tzatziki.

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A little less connective tissue, and this would’ve been magnificent. (I’m sure lions say this about zebras all the time).

From the Sides and Mezze options, which also include nduja sausage arancini (£5) and lamb chops (£7), we had shawarma chips (£4), topped with shavings of naughtily fatty doner meat, and a daub of harissa dill sauce.

3am food, yes, but delicious.

Our skinny Greek fries (£3.50) were the Gigi Hadid squad of chips – all as thin as hairpins, and sprinkled with crumbled feta, paprika and tzatziki.

I also fell for the Instagram bait that was the watermelon and feta salad (£5) – an Aegean-coloured plate contrasting with fat cubes of pink fruit, red and green grapes, pale feta, pea shoots and pomegranate seeds – before noting that loads of other people had posted the same picture.

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Of course they would, it’s so darn pretty, and summery sweet.

We weren’t in the market for doughnuts (£4) or candy floss affogato (£4), but thought we could squeeze in a wafer thin shareable baklava (£4).

It was a suitably gooey and sticky goodie, with the addition of a nutty beige gloop that made it all taste a bit like Ferrero Rocher.

The ideas here are great, and as soon as my mandibles recover and their chewy meat situation blows over, I will be back to take social media friendly photos and stuff my face. Until then, bananas on toast will have to do.

'Babs

49 West Nile Street, Glasgow

(0141-465 1882, www.babs.co.uk)

 

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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