Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, June 15, 2015

London's best shawarma is BACK!!!

Late night takeaways are a fact of life.

We've all eaten our share of dodgy fried chicken and toilet-grade kebabs when stricken with ferocious hunger pangs shortly after leaving the pub. Beer can do that to you.

Got a much better takeaway than the man on the bus
Perhaps the only real downside of the longer opening hours we've enjoyed for some years now is that most of the food options available at chucking-out time are invariably dire.

Well, almost invariably dire. There are, believe it or not, a few very special places where you can actually get something decent to eat at 12:37 AM. 

The Amal Shawarma in Tooting Broadway was one such place, and over many years played a key part in my life, when my life revolved around drinking in South London.

It was, for example, where I ended up on the night of my 30th birthday following a lengthy pub crawl. And on many occasions it provided my first meal of the year, some time in the small hours of New Year's Day.

But nothing lasts forever. I and my Tooting friends  drifted away from the area went there less frequently. Then, a while back it sadly disappeared, with the premises becoming yet another generic chicken shop. That, I thought was that.


It turns out it never really went away - within a few weeks they had reopened in new premises. Only nobody bothered to tell me until a few months ago.

London's tastiest shawarma takeaway is back in town, serving shittingly super-flavoursome wraps of meaty goodness. Yes the concept might appear superficially like your everyday doner kebab, but, trust me on this one, it's a whole world apart.

Chicken and Lamb shawarma kebabs
The tragedy is that you wouldn't know the old place was anything special from its unassuming, conventional exterior, and this is just as true of the new Amal Shawarma in Tooting Bec, located just opposite the tube station.

But just forget your preconceptions about kebabs in London and order a shawarma - either the aromatic, spicy lamb or the milder chicken - and enjoy the taste of something that's probably pretty fucking close to the street food of Beirut. (And even if it's nothing like the street food of Beirut it really doesn't matter because it tastes awesome!)

If you like this sort of thing, you'll be totally sold on it and other kebabs will henceforth taste like poor relations.

Lamb shawarma being prepared
Toasted until sealed and crispy in a Sandwich press, it's a world apart from your typical kebab, and I've occasionally been amused by the cluelessless of fellow customers actually bemoaning that this is the case!

Don't go overboard on the salad options or the sandwich press won't work. The meat should definitely dominate here, so just go for onion and tomato, and maybe a chilli for extra heat and crunch. Obviously both garlic and chilli sauces are required to complete the optimum combination of textures and flavours.

The garlic sauce is pretty intense, as if it's made mostly from garlic rather than mayonnaise. Trust me, you want this stuff on your chips. It melts down and coats them with transparent garlicky goodness.

A large shawarma and a large portion of chips (with garlic sauce, obviously) will set you back about £8, which is good value for a very hearty meal. Yes you could get a floor-sweepings doner somewhere for about half the price or a battery chicken burger meal for £2.99, but you'll only feel bad about yourself the following morning.

There are other things on the menu, but this place really isn't about those. Frankly I don't care if their falafal or chicken wings are absolute wank. It doesn't matter.

You come here to have a good late night shawarma after a few pints.

And I'm pretty thrilled that the place is back.

Where to find it...

Amal Shawarma
6 Trinity Road,
Tooting Bec
SW17 7RE (map)



  1. how you can vote tori i never know. get the tores out

  2. Nice post. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information. best sandwich shop in london some good write ups. like to see more from you.


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