Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
La Comptoir Libanais is a chain of ten bright, café-style Lebanese restaurants around London – they call them canteens.
In the Soho branch that we visited, the glass counter at the back of the store had examples of some of the dishes, including the mezze platter for two: a massive plate of aubergine purée, hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, lentil salad, sambousek – a folder pastry with a cheesy filling – pickles and warm pita bread. We were going to get the smaller plate which is officially only big enough for one since it looked so large, but we were persuaded by the friendly waitress that it wouldn’t be enough – there’s only one of each of the pastries, so unless we were life partners, rather than colleagues, it might be a bit awkward. As it turned out, it was far too much food, and as we had our eye on some of the main courses,we ended up leaving half of it. It only occurred to us later that we could have asked for it to be packaged up so that we could take the leftovers home with us.
Main courses on the large menu – they took up most of the table, causing us to nearly knock over our drinks – include wraps, grills, salads, fattehs – a sauce with crisp breads to spoon it up with – and tagines, which is a slow cooked casserole with cous cous.
We decided on salmon in pomegranate molasses with vermicelli rice. On its own, the sweet, sticky sauce could have been overpowering, but the mildness of the perfectly cooked, moist fish calmed the flavour and the rice was ideal, made more interesting with the addition of tiny strands of vermicelli pasta, so that it was light and fluffy. It didn’t look like a big meal when it was first served to us, but was just the right amount for us, especially after our massive starter.
Our dining partner went with a fattet moussaka – a large aubergine moussaka with warm yoghurt and crispbreads.
They also serve a selection of fresh juices and lemonades; our pomegranate and orange blossom lemonade was a disappointment – it tasted like watered down pomegranate juice direct from the carton, far too sweet to go with our meal. But the rose mint tea which the waitress suggested after the meal was a triumph. We’re not a fan of flowery flavoured food or drink, but the rose and mint (along with masses of sugar which they’d added to the pot) went exceptionally well.
Desserts consisted of cakes and baklava pastries, but we’d had far too much already to even contemplate having anything more.
Comptoir has recently opened a branch in Chelsea, which is a little out of our way, but with so many branches around the capital – including at Gatwick and Heathrow airports – we’ll be sure to be making a return visit soon to try some of the other things on the menu. And with the food reasonably priced, you’ll struggle to spend more than £20 each there.
Le Comptoir Libanese‘s new Chelsea branch is at 53-54 Duke of York Square, London SW3 4LY. Open Mon-Sun 8am–8pm, though opening hours for their other branches vary. Check their website for details.
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