Shwarmama is a new Shawarma takeaway shop on Commonwealth Street in Surry Hills brought to you by some of the people at Ester and Paramount Coffee Project. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there's a concise six item menu (including dessert in the form of one amazing salted chocolate chip sesame cookie). Most people take their food away but there is a small amount of stand up bench space to scoff your Shawarma.
I arrive at Shwarmama just before 1pm. It's easy to spot from the street - it's the one with a huge crowd in front of it waiting for their takeaway orders.
You can either eat in where they'll give it to you on a tray or take the food away where you'll get it in a paper bag. Ivy is running late so I message her with the menu asking if I should just go ahead and order because there is a 15 minute wait for food.
Most items are priced between $10 and $16. I order one of each the food items and a pomegranate soda and it comes to $80. There is also coffee by Reuben Hills from a self serve coffee machine, beer as well as white and red wine.
The first item to come out is the soda and cookie and we wait outside for the rest to be ready until they call my name and stake a little bench space out. The pomegranate soda is tart and quite refreshing, tasting more like pomegranate molasses than pomegranate juice.
"Oooh sauces!!" I exclaim greedily spotting a tray of help yourself sauces. I'm so used to paying extra for sauce, especially garlic sauce, that this has abundant offering has practically made my day. There's tahini, garlic sauce, hummus and harissa on offer. I grab the garlic sauce and go crazy.
Let's start with the sandwiches. There are three types of sandwiches: one vegetarian, one vegan and one meat. The sabich is a vegetarian Iraqi Israeli sandwich on puffy pita bread. There's fried eggplant, a soft boiled mashed egg, tahini, hummus, amba (Israeli Iraqi mango pickle sauce), onions, cabbage, pickles and pickled chilli. It's pretty good and I just add some more garlic sauce because that's really my motto of the day (life really). Most items have been kept quite traditional.
The felafel pita is vegan and has felafel balls, tahini, hummus, harissa, cucumber, onions, cabbage, pickles and pickled chillies. The felafel are bright green with herbs inside and they're freshly fried. They aren't quite in the same league as the Al Aseel felafel balls and the sandwich is good although a touch bready. Perhaps if the bread was warm we'd be inclined to eat more.
The only meat available is chicken today (I had heard that lamb was also on offer but there's just one spit) and it's a pretty fabulous dark meat chicken with over a dozen spices spiking it with a rainbow of flavour. The laffa flatbread is topped with this spiced chicken, tahini, hummus, garlic sauce, harissa, onions, cabbage, pickles and potato chips. Ivy loves the addition of chips, a nice Greek gyros touch and this is both our favourite sandwich of the lot.
I'm so glad to see a super smooth hummus, just like the kind I had in Jordan and Oman. Most hummus here is a bit chunky and honestly it's so easy to make that it's a nice change to get a silky smooth one. I add some garlic sauce to the harissa on top, olive oil and chickpeas and we dip the spongy pitta bread wedges into it.
The last item to come out is the NHSP (Non Halal Snack Pack) which is a bed of potato chips topped with spiced chicken, tahini, hummus, garlic sauce, harissa. onions, pickled chillies and pickles. This is delicious in the way that only loaded fries can be i.e. messy, naughty and dirty. Relief is given from the salty pickles. It's probably best to use a fork.
I expected to take a bite of this cookie and be done with it but this salted chocolate chip sesame cookie is quite a charmer. Crunchy on the edges but softish in the centre, the sesame seeds make this a nutty moreish delight and before you know it, I'm rewrapping this up to take home and eat with a cup of tea. While writing this story of course.
So tell me Dear Reader, which sandwich would you have chosen? Do you have a favourite meat for shawarma?
This meal was independently paid for.
106-112 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Monday to Friday 8am–3:30pm, 5–10pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am–10pm