November 29, 2021

Around the world in London restaurants: Lebanon – Healthy food and sparkling cocktails at Le Comptoir Libanais

A series of articles tasting London’s array of food from around the world

One of the delights of world cities like London is the chance to taste food from around the globe. Food from every country is available – or just about every country – TBH I don’t think there is a Vatican City restaurant.

Some cuisines are available all over the UK – you’ve probably noticed you can get Italian food in quite a few places nowadays, but London is still the city with the biggest range of world foods available every day.

The Flaneur is currently tasting food from every nation in the world with our #AroundtheWorldinLondonFood hashtag. We could have flown to Beirut to try Lebanese food, but there was an easier option. Instead we headed to Le Comptoir Libanais on Broadwick Street in Soho.

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Bright red tables with white chairs, ingredients for sale for home cooking, bags and books, the burble of conversation. There is something of the ambience of the souk, with people enjoying mint tea, snacks of tabbouleh and hommos as well as dinner. For someone not au fait with Lebanese dining the menu is full of exotic sounding dishes including Fattets, Sambousek and Manoucha.  Most of the dishes are made for sharing and we started with a large Mezze Platter.

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The menu said it was for one, but you’d need a big appetite if you were going to eat it all as a starter. The hommos was smooth, the Baba ghanuj had more texture – both went well with the lentil salad and falafel. The pickles were a bit dull, but the cheese sambousek was an unexpected treat. The warm pitta bread allows you to try and eat authentically without a fork – but don’t worry there is cutlery available, standing on each table in an old harissa tin.

Created by Tony Kitous the first Comptoir Libanais opened at Westfield Shopping centre. There are now five branches over London popularising Lebanese home-style cooking and Beirut street food, although you can also choose cocktails to up the glamour quotient. We tried the Zeina, created from Prosecco and pomegranate molasses. The Pomegranate stayed at the bottom of the glass and didn’t add much flavour.

Tagines were what had attracted us. This method of slow-cooking can produce beautifully simmered meals. We tried two versions – the Lamb Kofta and the straight Lamb. The Kofta was spicier, the Lamb tender and well-cooked. Both had rich, filling sauces. Served on beds of couscous or rice they were a delicious taste of the Levant and make you think maybe Beirut is the place for our next vacation.

After only two courses pudding unfortunately was already an impossibility – take a big stomach with you when you go. We’ll have to return and try the Baklawa and yoghurts. And discover what a Sambousek tastes like. It won’t be a chore – Le Comptoir Libanais makes healthy food delicious.

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