“A modern gourmet kebab house right in the heart of Glasgow City Centre. Founded and led by the hugely ambitious team behind award winning ‘Bread Meats Bread’, ‘Babs will strive to create great street food dishes that make the most of seasonal and ethical produce, while respecting kebab’s culinary Greek, Turkish and Levantine heritage. So please relax, enjoy and welcome to ‘Babs Family!”
Address: 49 W Nile St, Glasgow G1 2PT
General Information: no bookings
Date Visited: how many is too many..?
I think if you were to ask me which restaurant in Glasgow could I say I’ve pretty much tried the majority of dishes on the menu – my answer would likely be ‘Babs (or maybe Cafe Andaluz… but that’s from another younger, pre-laurencravings era). Unashamedly, I have systematically worked my way through their dishes one-by-one, although I’ve still got a few more to go, so there’s no stopping me!
You may see ‘NYE Update‘ the throughout this blog, and the reason for that is that I’d pretty much finished it (bad photos and all) when Jonathan and I decided to go to ‘Babs for our last meal of 2018. Yep, it’s THAT good. So good that I’d spend my last evening meal within it’s pretty walls – by the skin of our teeth I may add – last tables were are 7pm! So hopefully you’ll enjoy the ‘better’ photos I went on this NYE expedition for; instead of do it for the Vine, it was ‘do it for the blog’!
Due to the significant number of visits, and subsequent difficulty in describing any specific visit in detail, I’ve decided to take a different approach in break this review down into the following sections: Dips, Starters, Mains and Service. So first up …
We all know I love a good pitta & dip… and honestly, there is none I enjoy more than ‘Babs! Their original hummus (not currently on their Autumn menu) was good enough to rival my favourite at Paradise on Great Western Road. If you’re a fan of Nando’s red pepper dip, then be prepared to dip (lol) your head in shame for ever thinking it could rival ‘Babs version. The Kalamata olive dip, not pictured, is rich and flavoursome, whilst the Smoked Aubergine & & Dill Labneh is the only one I’ve yet to try! The photo below is from earlier on this year (clockwise from top): red pepper dip, babaganoush, hummus and same again on accompanying photo to the right.
Their babaganoush (when smooth!) is the best I’ve ever had. Whatever magic the Chef performed the day I had it – pictured below – please please PLEASE make it this way always! Too often now my babaganoush is delivered to my table ‘with stringy bits’ 😦 so I always confirm whether it’s smooth or stringy now before ordering (the waiting staff always knows what I mean; a small step for a hint on their never-ending patience with me). When smooth, I think it tops my choice for dips.
When stringy however, the new beetroot hummus is an absolute winner! When I visited with a friend a few weeks before their new menu launch, we were given the beetroot hummus as a taster – for free – before it was formally released. I was so enamoured of it that I had tried to order it again, 2 days prior to the launch, to be told it wasn’t available … oh how I cried inside! It is now a firm favourite and ordered every single time we visit. The vibrant colour is quite the show stopper isn’t it ?
My only criticism is that the product may vary… do I sound like a Terms & Conditions statement? Sometimes we’re given a drizzle of something on our pitta (seen on photo below on the left), sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes I get smooth babaganoush, but more often it’s stringy. Sometimes the sundried tomato hummus is a lighter colour, and sometimes it’s darker. And I always need to order more pitta for every dip I order, as they are so generous with the dip, but sadly not the pitta to the same extent (please don’t reduce the dip in response to this)!
NYE Update: the trio of dips is really good value and I’d always encourage you go for it, as it’s the price of 2 x individual dips. If you don’t finish them and want to take them away, they have little take-out containers for them! We go for 2 portions x sundried tomato and 1 x beetroot and I always take 1 x portion of the tomato hummus home! Also below you can see a double portion of pitta (’cause you need it!) with the drizzle tonight .. it was a good evening 🙂
I will admit, prior to the new menu launch, I hadn’t tried any of the starters. However, with the introduction of dishes such as: ‘Candied Beetroot’: Zaatar Candied Beetroots, goat cheese, hazelnuts, lemon & thyme and ‘Halloumi Platter’: Chargrilled halloumi & Halloumi fries served with basil tabbouleh, smoked aubergine labneh, artichokes, chilli – I couldn’t justifiably stick to only dips any longer.
The Candied Beetroot dish was always going to draw me in … anything with beetroot and goats cheese and I’m jumping excitingly inside, whilst Jonathan rolls his eyes at my predictability. You may notice however, that the dish below has feta instead of goats cheese layered above the purple and orange beetroot offering. This was due to them running out of goats cheese, without telling me, but I will address why this was ok in the Customer Service Section.
I don’t have a photo of the halloumi platter (pity), but I do have a (bad) photo of the halloumi fries, which although are from the Sides menu section feature on the platter as well. I would recommend the platter, even to order as a plate that bridges both Starters and Mains as there’s plenty to do so. They are damn tasty halloumi fries! And the combination of a slightly spicy dip with the cooling yogurt dip is inspired.
NYE Update: guess who ordered the Halloumi Platter just for you guys in the pursuit of a photo?! You don’t get the marinara sauce on the platter (which comes with the halloumi fries side, so I asked for a little pot, which costs 50p). I usually eat the halloumi fries as a starter and then keep the chargrilled halloumi for my main dish. The extra veg and pickles always come in handy for me, as I love the pickled purple cabbage you get with your mains, but you never get enough in my humble opinion (’cause I’m a glutton for it)! The rest can get chucked in the takeaway bag at the end, alongside your extra dip and other items (which I’ll touch on in the Customer Service Section). Obviously you’ll eat the artichokes though – YUM!
I’m going to mention the Lamb Doner in this section, as Jonathan orders it as a Starter, even although it is featured in the Main section of their menu. The grass-fed Lamb Doner with fresh tomatoes & onions, pickled gherkins & cabbage, topped with house-made tahini sauce & harissa chilli sauce – all wrapped in an artisan flatbread – is basically a posh doner. It hits all the same high notes as a 3am takeaway kebab, with better quality meat, all the while retaining the juicy, almost fatty, taste without being greasy.
The mains at ‘Babs have changed in many ways over the last 8-10 months; even outwith their official menu change there were a couple of changes in main dish accompaniments. Pictured below is the Hummus Chicken Shawarma as I first tried it back in April/May 2018. This version of it is what started my love affair with ‘Babs and many, many return visits to allow me to dig deep into this very colourful dish.
I will admit, I did prefer this original version of the dish, which came with more pickled veg and you know I love a sharp note! This is why my favourite has changed to the Lamb Shish (discussed below). But the current version of the Hummus Chicken Shawarma is a fixture on Jonathan’s favourite list. But then again, he did try a bite of my most recent Lamb Shish and make a statement that that would be his choice from now on also.
In case you don’t already know, my fiance – Jonathan, is a fairly large boy who generally needs to consume between 4000-5000 calories a day. If only we were all so lucky eh?! As such, he usually gets two main dishes when we’re there (yes, that’s even after the Lamb Doner as a starter). His second dish is usually Lamb Iskender: “chargrilled & thinly sliced lamb leg fillet, on a bed of grilled pita dipped in spiced marinara, garlic yogurt, green Turkish chilli and mint oil” – as seen below.
If you’re looking for a more ‘simple’ chicken dish; treated with such respect that the succulent juiciness of the meat jumps off that plate at you, then the Chicken Shish: “free range chicken skewers, sweet pepper puree, garlic yogurt, green Turkish chilli and house pickles” could be the one for you. However, it doesn’t have the same punchy myriad of flavours that the other dishes seem to embody so well, so I only tried it once.
Not the best of photos, but the only one I have of my favourite main dish Lamb Shish: “free range lamb leg fillet skewers, sweet pepper puree, tzatziki, green Turkish chilli and house pickles”, which is at the bottom of the photo below (beneath a more recent iteration of the Hummus Chicken Shawarma). An inspired move of mine however, is swapping out the tzatziki for the sundried tomato hummus; as I’m not the biggest fan of cucumber so it just makes everything better! Again with the cute little green drizzle on the pitta – you should keep this coming, it’s tasty :-p
NYE Update: I ordered the Lamb Shish, cooked medium, with the sundried tomato hummus and have included a photo below. Funnily enough, I usually scoop most of my hummus off the plate and add it to my ‘take-home’ pile from the 3 x dip starter. I then add some of the yogurt, extra veg and tabbouleh from the Halloumi Platter dish onto the plate and viola, you have my perfect dish! Everything they plate up is tremendous, so I like to mix and match with the flavour combinations – maybe I’ll invent the new Lamb Shish dish for the next menu re-vamp, who knows ! I also usually eat 1 x skewer from this dish as my main (due to the plethora of starters that already adorn the table at that point…) and put the other aside to take home for tomorrow’s lunch.
There’s been numerous small things that have added up to the overall great feeling of waiting staff attentiveness and genuine care when serving customers in ‘Babs. To quote Simon Sinek:
““This is why she fell in love with you. I can’t tell you exactly what day. It was no particular thing you did. It was the accumulation of all of those little things that she woke up one day as if she pressed a button, she goes, ‘I love him.’ The same with the relationship. It’s not about the events. It’s not about intensity. It’s about consistency.”
Much like falling in love: with a person, a restaurant, a place, a menu or one singular dish; it’s each and every little element of your experience, in relation to that thing, that defines your level of emotion when describing it to another person. Considering the amount of times I go though, I do find it a little sad that they act no different each time they greet me; so it doesn’t quite match up to the likes of Partick Duck Club (where I’ve probably been less times, but who greet me with warmth by name). The food in ‘Bab’s is what raises it to the heights of splendour, but there have been specific moments where I’ve been really impressed with the customer service in ‘Babs.
As mentioned above, I was offered the opportunity to try the beetroot hummus for free before the official menu relaunch. It’s likely they were doing this with a lot of people, but it’s a nice idea and made my friend and I feel great – plus it was delicious!
When I ordered the candied beetroot and goats cheese starter, but was presented with feta instead the waitress took it off our bill. She could see how gutted I was that it wasn’t goats cheese, and although she offered to get me something else I hate waste so I ate it. We found out at the end that she’d removed it; thoughtful and not really necessary – but a decent thing to do. I will order it again sometime when I know there is goats cheese!
My next example of lovely customer service comes during a late night visit. We’d just been to @madformozza for pizza, and I decided we were just far too close to ‘Babs (a mere block away) to NOT stop by to grab a couple of dips for dessert. I’ve never hidden the fact I’m more savoury than sweet, so for that reason I’m not going to justify going for dips at another restaurant for dessert. It isn’t ridiculous. No matter what Jonathan said at the time. We had ordered the beetroot hummus & babaganoush, she delivered the sundried tomato hummus & babaganoush … so we ended up with all three (after popping back for the beetroot hummus and more pitta) as she advised the kitchen was close to shutting and it’d be going to waste anyway. Made my night !
Now you may think from the abundance of food pictures above that I must order A LOT when I go to ‘Bab’s… and you’d be right, but it’s a strategic move! You see, they have takeaway boxes placed strategically above the pass (I like this, as it means you know you can ask for food to takeaway after). So when I order in ‘Bab’s, I always order with my lunch the next day in mind too. That leftover extra dip from the 3 x dip platter? The extra veg, yogurt, tabbouleh from the Halloumi Platter? That spare skewer from my Lamb Shish? They all work together nicely for a lovely lunch the following day, which only means that ‘Babs spreads it’s flavoursome love far and wide across my life, outwith the 1.5 hours I spend in there.
So here’s to another year, and many more visits to one of my favourite restaurants in Glasgow!