Sunday, 21 March 2010

Middle East, made easy

A few weeks ago I went with friends to check out Le Comptoir Libanais, a new mini-chain of stylish little canteens serving Lebanese food. I think the first one popped up in Marylebone early last year and now there are branches in Bayswater, Swiss Cottage and Westfield. They've already received heaps of praise from the likes of Time Out, and it seems everyone else went to try it months and months before I did, but hey...!

We started with drinks - I had a zingy rosewater lemonade, which was sour, aromatic and refreshing all in one. The others had similarly zingy and flavoursome fruit drinks, such as pomegranate and orange blossom lemonade. Yum.

We shared a mixed mezze platter, which had everything you would expect. Fresh humus, smoky baba ganoush, citrussy tabbouleh, falafel, cheese samboussek, a rice salad and picked vegetables. It was all very nice, but not radically different or superior to mezze platters you would find at other Lebanese restaurants in the neighbourhood.

Next up we had wraps - I had half a chicken taouk wrap and half a haloumi and olive wrap. The flatbread itself was nice, wholesome tasting. Maybe I'm a bit more used to greasy street food, but I felt the wraps could have benefited from smatterings of the magic triad of salad, tomato sauce and garlic yoghurt sauce. In sensible quantities I hasten to add! This would have presented the wraps from being a bit dry.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience - nicely decorated, friendly service, the food was nice and the bill was very reasonable. But I've had tastier Lebanese food elsewhere in London. The Independent's review likened it to a Middle Eastern Carluccio's - I wouldn't go quite that far, but it did seem to be Middle-East made easy - for people who might not have considered venturing into a 'proper' Lebanese eatery. This is no bad thing really - anything opens up people's palates to the joys of Middle Eastern cooking is a good thing. But don't go to Le Comptoir Libanais expecting much more than an introduction.

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