Home   Dartford   News   Article

Eat My Words: We review Shawa Lebanese Grill at Bluewater to celebrate shopping centre’s 25th anniversary

This weekend one of Europe’s biggest shopping and leisure destinations is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Bluewater opened its door on March 16, 1999, so, to mark its quarter-century, reporter Megan Carr decided to head down to the food court to reminisce and try out one of its newer fast-food restaurants.

Bluewater’s opening day on March 16, 1999
Bluewater’s opening day on March 16, 1999

Bluewater, near Dartford, is just over a year and eight months older than me so, as someone who grew up just up the hill in Greenhithe, I spent many an occasion at the shopping centre.

Celebratory dinners at TGI Fridays, Christmases at the Glow Exhibition and even birthday parties on the old climbing wall near Burger King were the norm for myself, friends and family.

I even had my first job at Bluewater. I worked part-time at the little Watch Surgery kiosk by Lush for a few years while I studied for my A-Levels.

It’s safe to say I knew Bluewater like the back of my hand, however, after moving away from the area in 2019 I began to notice the big changes which were happening there – with lots of new shops opening and others closing it began to feel like a completely different experience to what it once was.

Seeing as it was the centre’s anniversary I wanted to head back and see just how much has changed, especially its food court.

Reporter Megan Carr on the climbing wall that used to be in Bluewater by Burger King
Reporter Megan Carr on the climbing wall that used to be in Bluewater by Burger King

I have fond memories of the old fast food seating area, back when McDonald’s was a castle and spaceship.

I also remember an odd underground interactive play area and trees which decorated the area alongside a flowing ‘river’ filled with frog fountains that were dotted around the place.

There were fewer seats back then but as a kid it felt like I was sitting in a magical fairy garden while I tucked into my Happy Meal.

Today all the greenery is gone, as is the ‘hidden’ underground area. McDonald’s still remains but it is much more modern.

I guess that goes for the whole food court, the large space has adapted, and there is no longer a need for the ‘fun stuff’ it just needs to be a place where lots of people can sit and eat in between shopping and shifts.

The old food court in Bluewater. Picture: The Image Works
The old food court in Bluewater. Picture: The Image Works

Although this saddens me, I do understand change happens for a reason and when I headed down to the food court on a Friday night I was happy to see that it was rammed.

There were a lot of people who had told me that Bluewater was “dead” but that wasn’t the case when I went. People were having to loiter around the edges with their food waiting for a table to become free – no wonder the shopping centre removed the greenery and added more tables, clearly there is high demand.

Chains like KFC and McDonald’s have been in the food hall for as long as I can remember, so I wanted to try somewhere I hadn’t eaten before and was relatively new to the mall.

I decided to try my luck at the Shawa Lebanese Grill, which opened in 2015.

The Shawarma fast food branch serves slices of grilled chicken or lean lamb in Lebanese flatbread.

Shawa in Bluewater
Shawa in Bluewater

Its website states: “Shawarma for the Lebanese are what burritos are to the Mexicans”.

The staff behind the counter were very nice but I believe the man who served me was a new employee and he needed a hand with the till when I asked for a meal deal.

I went with a medium chicken shawarma wrap, with cheese fries and mango juice.

For dessert, I shared a plate of Baklava – layers of filo pastry sheets filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup – with my friend, who’d opted to grab her dinner from the nearby Wasabi.

The wrap was £7.95 and to add chips and a drink it was an extra £4.95, the dessert was also an additional £4.75.

Megan's Shawa wrap being prepared
Megan's Shawa wrap being prepared

After grabbing my meal on a tray we went and stood at the edge of the seating area looking for a table.

We managed to grab one pretty quickly, however, although the area you order is well lit, the area where you eat is pretty dingy in the evening. It’s like a big conservatory with lots of windows that only let in natural light – something that wasn’t available at 6.30 at night.

My wrap was lovely, everything you’d expect from a chain serving this kind of food.

It was in no way gourmet but there was an even distribution of flavour throughout, the chicken was tasty and as I went with all the salad inside my flatbread there was a nice fresh crunch.

The only thing I would warn people about is the pickles. I am a huge fan of gherkins and things like that, however, Lebanese pickles are pickled in a salt brine instead of vinegar.

Megan's Shawa meal
Megan's Shawa meal

They were still tasty in my book but just a warning in case you were expecting something tangy in your wrap not salty.

When I ordered cheesy chips I thought I was going to get something less American-looking, so I didn’t expect bright yellow cheese to be drizzled over my fries.

However, although it wasn’t what I was expecting, they were very yummy.

The chips had a wonderful crisp to them and the sauce was very cheesy. I’m just not sure if they go with a Lebanese wrap.

My favourite part of the meal was the fresh mango juice I had, which was very refreshing at the end of my carb-fuelled meal.

Bluewater food court during Megan Carr's visit
Bluewater food court during Megan Carr's visit

Finally, the Baklava. It was wonderful. I know it isn’t anything like the fresh stuff you can get from street markets but it wasn’t far off.

But then again I don’t know what you could do wrong with pastry, syrup and nuts.

Out of five:

Food: I experienced some new Lebanese flavours I wasn’t expecting but thoroughly enjoyed them nonetheless, it was tasty grub you’d expect from a shopping centre’s food court, nothing fancy but not bad. *** and a half

Drink: My fresh mango juice was wonderfully fresh and sweet, almost a dessert in itself, I would definitely have it again *****

Reporter Megan Carr with her Shawa in the Bluewater food court
Reporter Megan Carr with her Shawa in the Bluewater food court

Decor: The fast food stand itself is nicely presented but very small due to the fact it shares the food court with many other vendors. The food court seating area is also hard to comment on as it is very similar to a canteen layout, however, it was exceptionally clean, even if the skylight did make it a little dark when eating in the evening. ***

Staff: Due to the nature of the food court I didn’t have much interaction with staff but they were quick and efficient and happy to answer my questions when I asked about the meal deal. Bluewater’s staff were also working hard keeping the food court nice and tidy as the dinner time rush. *****

Price: Overall my meal cost £17.65 altogether. The food was nice but I think that price was fairly steep for what I got and where I’d gotten it from.

I know I didn’t need to get a dessert and it would have been cheaper to get the wrap on its own but I was at the food court for dinner so I wanted to make sure I had a full meal. I think in the future I’d pay a couple of quid more to dine in one of Bluewater’s many restaurants instead when it comes to tea time eating.

For me, Shawa would be best suited for a quick lunch for this reason and you’d only pay £8ish for a wrap alone. ***

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More