Photo: Elena Bradley @saltshellsandbechamel

Comptoir Libanais: Lebanese Food Heaven

The London franchise of Comptoir Libanais has in recent years forged itself enough success to expand into multiple locations; the most local being Spinningfields in Manchester. Amid Neighborhood, Australasia and Iberica, the area is both upmarket and a classy date-night staple for either ‘cocktails with the girls’ or an intimate dinner for couples. Regardless of the ‘nice top and heels’ status of the latter restaurants, Comptoir Libanais has a more laid back feel. The decor is beautiful; an Instagram-worthy, Souk-styled amalgamation of colour, tiles and terracotta terrine dishes. Also, the drinks menu is one of the most appealing I’ve seen; twists on classic cocktails such as their pomegranate and goji Cosmopolitan, The Comptoir G&T (Haymans, Pink Grapefruit and Rose Syrup) and non-alcoholic Lebanese staples such as fresh rose and mint tea and fresh lemonades with orange blossom, apple, mint and ginger.

Contributing to their middle eastern, Souk style is the open kitchen allows you to see (and smell) the dishes being prepared. This in itself is something I have a lot of respect for, as this immersive dining style allows you to trust the kitchen’s evident experience and also salivate at the smells of grilling koftas and roasting aubergines. Comptoir Libanais’ website describes their food as ‘fresh, healthy, honest and affordable’. With this in mind, their Lebanese cuisine affords vegetarians (and vegans) the same enjoyment that those pesky non-veggies usually have. The majority of the menu being (unintentionally) veggie – a clear plus.

To start, we ordered the mezze platter for one and the pomegranate molasses-marinated chicken wings. The mezze platter for one was more than enough for both of us and alone, made me recommend this place to all my friends. On one plate you get the most authentic, smooth hummus of your life along with hummus’ sexy cousin, ‘baba ghanuj’ (smokey aubergines blended with tahini) and beetroot labne (tsatsiki’s pink cousin). Falafel at it’s ultimate best; light, crisp and galaxies away from the dense balls of graininess you find in the supermarkets. Moreover, the cheese samboussek (a pastry filled with halloumi and feta) was delicious enough to make me question my relationship. So, the mezze platter was a resounding success. The pomegranate molasses chicken wings were charred, glazed with sweetness and zingy with fresh lemon: fit, basically.

For my main I ordered the ‘lamb kofta fattet’; spiced lamb kofta with a tahini yoghurt sauce, crispy onions and sumac-toasted flat breads. The questions about my relationship that the cheese pastry forced me to confront were melted away by the combination of spiced lamb and yoghurt that just forces anyone to fall in love all over again (so good). In its immense tastiness this dish was also doubly satisfying to look at; served in its authentic terracotta tagine pot. This notion of rustic, authentic food really does contrast the Spinningfields’ surroundings in a way that is relaxing and also indulgent, as the food is both beautiful and unlikely to be something you’ve had before.

Overall, I’m singing Comptoir Libanais’ praises daily. It isn’t often that I have such a memorable meal that was both something new and absolutely delicious. Also it wasn’t over-indulgent to the point where I needed a stretcher to carry me out in gluttonous style. My advice would be that portions are big, so be wary of over-ordering but ultimately, drop everything and go – you won’t be disappointed.

Tags: Falafel, feta, Food and drink, Food review, halloumi, Lebanese food, Manchester food, review, spinningfields, tzatziki

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