Megan gets the Mezzes with Comptoir Libanais’ new menu of Middle Eastern delights
Bold, bright and quirky interiors, reminiscent of the decor in the homes in Lebanon, have been popping up all over London in the form of restaurant chain, Comptoir Libanais.
I’m hesitant to say it’s traditionally decorated as I don’t think Michelle Obama in a red fez is quite what I would find if I went on a trip to Beirut – but nevertheless, on entering, it feels like you’re stepping into a world far removed from drizzly, old Britain.
That’s what we left behind as we took our culinary journey to the Middle East at Comptoir’s London Bridge site with their new menu. While there were some issues with our booking, we eventually got seated in the centre of the busy restaurant and immediately scanned the menu because – after our booking mishap – we were more than ready to eat.
We were tempted to skip straight over the starters and head for the bigger plates to fill our hungry tummies but the new mezze dish, named Tony’s Hommos, caught our eye. Described as a twist on the traditional chickpea favourite, the hommos came topped with crispy cauliflower and a lightly spiced Yemen salsa. The hommos was silky smooth and the cauliflower – while not overly crispy – was well-flavoured with an abundance of aromatic mixed spices.
Alongside the fresh, pillowy flatbread, the hommos was a delightfully simple but nevertheless delicious start to our meal – although, it wasn’t until halfway through scooping up mounds of creamy chickpeas that we could refresh ourselves with our cocktails that took a while to be delivered to the table.
For our main courses, we opted for a lamb kofta wrap platter and one of the new house favourites – the Steak Skewer. Marinated in black lime and pomegranate molasses, the beef was suitably pink throughout – although slightly chewy in places – but as the first beef option to ever feature on the menu, it was an impressive plate of flavoursome meat, tomatoes, onions and spicy garlic and sumac potatoes. It’s clear why this grilled main has made its way onto the House Favourites section of the menu.
The second main featured Lebanese staples of cumin and coriander-spiced ground lamb kofta nestled in a soft white tortilla wrap. A decent helping of hommos inside the wrap provided a necessary moistness and a sprinkling of pickled cucumber and onion gave the whole combination a satisfying zestiness. Plus, if there wasn’t enough to satisfy your tastes, the platter included an extra supply of velvety hommos and crunchy Comptoir salad.
New to the dessert offering was an ice cream sandwich made from two pieces of traditional baklava and another ice cream option of a Comptoir Sundae, served in a single or sharing size.
Being fresh additions to the restaurant’s repertoire, it was a little disappointing to be told that the baklava sandwich wasn’t available; instead, I settled for a simple selection plate of the syrupy pastry. Deliciously sweet, the three pieces came with a sprinkling of dried rose petals that added a touch of tartness to the honey-soaked filo layers.
Served in a short tumbler rather than a common sundae glass, the Comptoir Sundae was a fusion of Middle Eastern and American dessert royalty: the oh-so-delicious baklava, fudgey halva and rich, chunky chocolate brownie.
A luxurious ice cream blanketed all the dessert pieces in a cloud of sweet vanilla, while sprinklings of sesame brittle and pistachios cut through it all with a nutty, salty crunch. Digging deeper into the dessert you’ll find a thick layer of date molasses at the bottom which, while it helped balance out the sweetness of the rest of the sundae, was slightly too overpowering and made the pudding difficult to polish off.
Sufficiently stuffed with our fair helping of ice cream, Comptoir Libanais delivered in its aim of making us fall in love with its imaginative plates inspired by the flavours of the Middle East.
The menu offers familiarity and comfort through fusions of Western and Eastern dishes, such as the lamb kofta roll (essentially a lamb hotdog loaded with Lebanese pickles, chilli peppers and a sweet pomegranate relish).
Obviously, it’s not entirely authentic but the chain does a grand job of bringing the warmth and character of the Middle East to the streets of London and its sites across the UK.