Chef Andy Campbell hunts for Dubai's best shawarma

Chef Andy Campbell hunts for Dubai's best shawarma

British celebrity chef goes around town to find which nationality makes the best shawarma

Clockwise from top left: Shawarma at Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall, Al Faal Star Restaurant, Istanbul Flower, Jumeirah Falcon and Safeer. Image Credit: XPRESS/Arshad Ali

Dubai: In a land known as a confluence of many flavours, one dish stands out: the humble shawarma. Whether you're in Dubai, Detroit or Dublin, this fast food is known to and patronised by both the rich and poor.

But in Dubai, one can't quite escape the argument that pits one nationality or region against another when it comes to who makes the best shawarma. Many say Arab chefs are the best while there are those who differ.

So, while the debate rages on, we thought we would ask British celebrity chef Andy Campbell to join us on a shawarma-tasting jaunt around town to give his unbiased verdict - Arab or non-Arab.

Campbell, 48, takes pride in being a "hands on" chef and values his independence in taste, having established his first restaurant at age 23 in London.

"Food is about working from the heart as far as I'm concerned," says Campbell, who has cooked for international sports stars, Hollywood celebrities, including George Lucas, and has appeared on BBC as well as high-end publications such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Hello and OK!, among others.

Before moving to Dubai, Campbell was the Head Chef at many well-known London fine-dining restaurants - the Café Royal, Ménage a Trois, and the famous French House in London's Soho.

During the ‘shawarma' trip, we stopped at nine outlets, including those in malls and streetside joints. The trip, or the battle, as we had anticipated, turned out to be an unforgettable gourmet exercise and here's Andy's verdict:

Multi-food: Rolla Street, Bur Dubai

  • Chef: Indian
  • Observation: The chicken looks like tandoori in colour; has undertones of chilli. Restaurant has three shawarma grills - one each for regular chicken, spicy chicken and mutton.
  • Verdict: The lamb is OK, but it's just another one. The chicken one is very, very good. I recommend it.

Jumeirah Falcon: Al Wasl Road, Satwa

  • Chef: Indian
  • Observation: Their shawarma uses crispy Iranian bread, with Mexican influences in the preparation.
  • Verdict: The lamb shawarma almost reminds me of a sandwich wrap. Very easy to eat and delicious. The chicken has a totally different flavour. Pickles on the side complement the chicken.

Safeer: Ibn Battuta Mall

  • Chef: Moroccan and Indian
  • Observation: The chefs take turns to prepare the shawarmas
  • Verdict: Can't tell the difference between the one prepared by the Moroccan and the one prepared by an Indian. They're both OK, but unremarkable.

Beirut: Mall of the Emirates

  • Chef: Iraqi.
  • Observation: The chef uses two kinds of bread - fresh tandoori bread and Lebanese. Chicken is crispy, the pickle salty with the brine from pickle and vinegar thrown in. The beef shawarma has big chunks of meat with plenty of tahina sauce.
  • Verdict: Nice flavour for the chicken shawarma.

Al Faal Star Restaurant: Al Quoz

  • Chef: Nepalese
  • Observation: This road-side shawarma joint is situated next to an Arab residential area.
  • Verdict: The chicken one is quite tasty - very moist. It's mixed so well.

Al Azhar Cafeteria: Al Quoz

  • Chef: Indian
  • Observation: This is the real Dubai, the real shawarma maker. The restaurant and the setting is close to the people.
  • Verdict: Delicious, very good balance.

Eat and Drink: Shaikh Zayed Road

  • Chef: Indian
  • Observation: Combined with the tahina, the salad and the crispiness of the chicken, the shawarma here has a good balance and not too salty.
  • Verdict: Good quality, thickly sliced chicken, nice and moist, but no edge.

Istanbul Flower: Shaikh Zayed Road

  • Chef: Turkish
  • Observation: It is sweeter in flavour and the bread is thicker. A lot more meat; not too salty and not too dry. Very generous amount.
  • Verdict: It's got its own unique flavour.

No.1: Automatic Restaurant: Ibn Battuta Mall

  • Chef: Lebanese
  • Observation: Undertones of cloves and cinnamon complement the meat. The chicken one comes with pickles, cumin, garlic, fries, onions, parsley, tomatoes and tahina sauce.
  • Verdict: This is the nicest shawarma I've tasted in Dubai.


"Taste is taste. I think Arabs come on top because of the subtle spicing and dressing. As a complete package, it is much better. Definitely, Arabs are the best shawarma makers."

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