German Doner Kebab: Food critic calls Glasgow-owned fast food chain "worst restaurant in the world"

The German Doner Kebab brand has been based in Glasgow since it was bought by the Sarwar family in 2017.
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Despite being hailed as "the kebab chain poised to shake up New York’s doner scene" by New York magazine’s food and drink blog Grub Street last year, Glasgow fast food brand German Doner Kebab has been slammed by The Times' London food critic as the "worst restaurant in the world."

The company is owned by Athif and Asim Sarwar, sons of former Glasgow MP Mohammed, brothers of Scottish Labour leader Anas.

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German Doner Kebab started at a single location in Berlin in 1989. The first franchise opened in Dubai in 2013. A majority stake was bought by the Sarwar family’s Hero Brands, which also owns Hawaiian food brand Island Poké and salad restaurant Choppaluna, and its headquarters moved to Glasgow.

The brand has grown rapidly to over 140 restaurants across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. The next phase of expansion includes Saudi Arabia and Ireland. GDK have also taken their doner from Glasgow to North America. The brand opened its first US site at American Dream Mall in New Jersey in 2021, before opening in Queens, Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York.

This international expansion and success across major cities in the UK means nothing to food curmudgeon Giles Coren, restaurant reviewer for The Times, who screeched "well, I’ve found the worst restaurant in the world. And, surprise, surprise, it’s German" in his latest column.

He writes: "It’s called German Doner Kebab. You’ve probably heard of it. They’re everywhere. There are hundreds of them. They’re a thing. A phenomenon. And I’d been thinking that at some point I ought to go and try one. I like doner kebabs. I even review them from time to time. I don’t look down on them the way I look down on, say, tasting menus or French food.

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"I fully respect the shaved elephant’s leg in a slipper, covered in salad and strafed with hot sauce, lemon and garlic. And if that’s making you think you’ll nip out and get one right now, don’t. Not from German Doner Kebab, anyway."

He then goes on to recount a night-time visit to the branch closest to his office in London, taking particular issue with the selection of meat available: "The choice on screen is chicken or beef. Beef! Who puts beef in a doner? It’s a lamb dish. Specifically lamb breast, with all that lovely fat. Not “lean beef”. The hell is the point in that?" In Germany, a doner kebab sandwich is the country's most popular street food dish. German doner is a variation of a Turkish dish. It has been popular since the 1960s and is available in over 18,000 outlets across the country. Out of convenience, Turkish immigrants turned the doner into a sandwich, traditionally prepared with chicken, beef or veal - not lamb.

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