As much as I could eat leftover cold roast potatoes, bread sauce and Quality Street for, well, pretty much forever, there does come a point during the festive period where your palate starts screaming for stimulation. Middle Eastern food is clearly what the doctor orders in these situations and, in London, Comptoir Libanais hits the spot.
Tony Kitous, who previously opened both Pasha and Levant, has turned his hand to Lebanese home-style dishes, and is gradually opening a mini chain of Comptoir Libanais on the High Street (there are seven at the moment). The first was in Westfield, but the one we go to is on Wigmore Street, hard by St Christopher’s Place, and handy for returning Christmas presents/checking out the sales/collapsing into after a hard morning’s work.
New Year’s Eve Day saw my mother descend upon the capital to celebrate with friends so I arranged to meet her here: a long time Claudia Roden aficionado, she adores anything Middle Eastern on her plate.
We ordered a large mezze plate to share, along with a starter portion of halloumi with rose syrup. For a lunchtime we found this quite enough, mopped up with a generous plate of warm pita bread. I always think that the particular pleasure of a mezze plate is the wide range of sharp flavours, that someone all manage to complement each other. This one included an exemplary Baba ghanuj, hommos, a very welcome tabbouleh, packed with green vitamins, falafel (the only letdown, dry and heavy), organic lentil salad, cheese sambousek, and pickles.
If you are a Halloumi addict, then this is the place to come: this was nothing like the plastic wrapped, vacuum packed blocks from the supermarket: almost fluffy in texture, with the rose syrup balancing the salt, it was delicious.
If you want to eat on the hoof, or at your desk, everything is available to go at the deli counter, and they make good coffee too, although sadly not the delicious thick Lebanese stuff. They also specialise in fruit juices, and in home-made lemonades: I ordered the pomegranate & orange blossom, which again provided that sharp/sweet hit, which is at the centre of so much Lebanese cooking.
There are also shelves of provisions running along the walls of the restaurant, making it an ideal multi-tasking destination.
We stocked up on Mulberry syrup (lovely with Halloumi, or mixed with fizzy water for a refreshing drink), a big tin of baklava, figs in syrup for spooning over yogurt, and fig jam. I also picked up some of Hannah’s favourite harissa for her.
If we hadn’t gone shopping simultaneously, the bill wouldn’t have been high: our drinks bill came to £14.50, and the food £23.60 for two people. If they could sort out the falafel, and prod the charming staff into moving a little faster, then this place would be damn near perfect.
65 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1JT Tel: 020 7935 1110 Opening hours: Mon-Sat 8am – 11:30pm, Sun 11:30am – 10:30pm