Al Beiruti calls itself a Lebanese Restau-Café. What it is in actual fact is a Parisian styled boutique bistro, restaurant, café and shisha lounge – no surprises which section is the more popular; thankfully the smoking area is partitioned. A lovely, shaded veranda runs the length of the restaurant and is the place to book your table in this near perfect winter weather. A booking is advisable as the restaurant is rapidly gaining in popularity. I’ve only been once and it’s already among my favourites.
I found the food at Al Beiruti to be nothing less than sensational. We ordered very few starters – Hummus with Pine and Meat, Fattoush and Vine Leaves but each was as good as I have had anywhere. My tolerance for anything sour is very low. It’s one of the reasons I struggle with mainstream Levantine starters. At Al Beiruti even the fattoush and stuffed vine leaves, typically nail curlingly sour, were so perfectly balanced I could have had them as my mains, as my wife often does. The hummus, freckled with small pieces of fried meat, was almost a spiritual experience.
It is a tradition with Middle Eastern restaurants to have a dish of the day (self-explanatory). I always ask what it is as I have been rewarded with some amazing dishes in the past. My prize for asking this time was one of my favourite Lebanese dishes – Sayadieh. For those not familiar with Lebanese cuisine, Sayadieh is fish and rice dish seasoned with a blend of spices called Baharat which is simply mind-blowing. Although I felt the fish fillets were slightly overcooked, the dish as a whole was superb. The problem was that my companions were trim, suited and booted executive lawyers (from a nearby law firm) whose eyes would follow my fork-full of rice, from my plate to my mouth, and then either make hmph-like noises or comment on how healthy I looked these days. So, I ate my fish and left my rice…but what I really wanted to do was pour the gravy all over the rice and fish and dig in with my hands.
My fit and firm lawyers ordered the Grilled Jumbo Shrimps and the Chicken Tawouk Grill….with more salad. They shared, more out of pity but also to show me how good lean cuisine (and salad) could be. I don’t know why everyone assumes, because I eat out every day, that I eat unhealthy – I don’t – I eat healthy. But that is a story for another day. Back at Al Beruiti I found both the shrimps and the chicken also a little overcooked but the tawouk in particular had intense flavour and was still soft. Neither were what I would call juicy. Is it me or do all Middle Eastern restaurants overcook their meat?
I found the staff at Al Beiruti friendly and accommodating from walk-in to table. We were looked after by a mild mannered, respectful, impeccably groomed lad named Alaa who could have been a basketball player he was so tall. His knowledge of the menu was so impressive that I made a point of mentioning it; I find it so important for table staff to be able to talk diners through the menu beyond the infuriating – this is a best seller.
It’s not everyday that I walk out of a restaurant so content and impressed. Al Beiruti felt like one of those restaurants you feel as comfortable going to for breakfast with friends and family, as you would for a business lunch, or on a date night dinner with that someone special. It’s a restaurant I have no hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.