Comptoir Libanais in Soho exudes the spirit of Christmas – it’s all shiny scarlet and gold, bronze hampers twinkling from the walls, convivial young meejuh pros toot-tooting like the ten pipers piping. The Lebanese canteen is packed the Friday night we visit with hungry would-be customers pressing up against the floor-to-ceiling windows that lope across a bustling street corner. It’s nice just sitting in here. Long shelves hold fig jam, pickled cucumbers, Turkish delight and flavoured oils for sale. The whole place has the feel of the souk about it.
They’ve got a new Christmas menu too, which we partly tried while also picking at other temptations. And Sirine, the 1960s Arabic actress with the Scouse brows, smiles at you from the front of the menu. Refreshingly, there’s a good choice of soft drinks, from pomegranate and orange blossom Roomana to fresh rose mint tea. Obviously we went for the cocktails, the perky espresso martini being more successful than the Bloody Sirine – not the most promising of names and whose harissa, sumac and spiced tomato juice created too much confusion.
Starter-wise, the mezze platter with baba ghanuj, hommos, tabbouleh, falafel, lentil salad, cheese sambousek, pickles and warm pita bread was a good way to swoop across the menu at once. The crunchy broad bean falafel was particularly tasty and the tabbouleh well-honoured with mounds of fresh parsley.
I loved the salty preserved lemons in the chicken and green olive tagine – a great filler for just £8.75. The lamb and prune tagine was OK although we both thought it could have been richer, gooier and sweeter. But the pudding did that job for us; what a lovely orange and almond cake. Service was friendly, the company was cool. I’m just not sure how well Sirine came out of the evening.
59 Broadwick Street
Tel: 020 7434 4335