Nestled in the heart of Spinningfields lies Comptoir Libanais – a Lebanese gem enticing foodies with its colourful dishes. With the arrival of Spring, this month sees an exciting new food revamp with updated classics on an all-day menu.
Comptoir Libanais launched in 2008 with chef and founder Tony Kitous bringing his vision of encouraging people to fall in love with food from his home to life. Tony arrived in London from Algeria at 18 years old with £70 in his pocket and dreams of owning a restaurant and increasing the popularity of the food.
The restaurant is beautifully designed, creating an authentic Lebanese feel through the clever use of faux florals and Mediterranean-inspired decor. The attention to detail extends to every corner of the restaurant: hanging baskets, stained glass windows, and the use of Mediterranean colours, such as blues and oranges. Large murals depicting Lebanese culture served as a backdrop to the dining experience.
Their extensive drinks menu made it challenging to choose, complete with a range of cocktails and spritzes, as well as beers, ciders, and a geographically vast wine list. What stood out was that, whilst the restaurant keeps it classic with more conventional drinks, Comptoir Libanais has also opted for drinks which complement the fruity, refreshing flavours of Lebanese food. The wine list includes classic whites and reds but also holds some more unique wines from vineyards in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
We started with some cocktails: the Comptoir Cosmo and a glass of Beirut Pimms. Switching out the traditional cranberry juice in favour for pomegranate, and rose syrup instead of Cointreau, this cocktail feels right at home. The Beirut Pimms nonetheless stood out as a firm favourite. The classic drink was elevated to new heights with some ingredient swaps (kept a closely guarded secret). It’s a shame we opted for only a glass.
For our starters, we chose the Fattoush Salad and the new Tony’s Hommos. Our expectations for the hommos were high, considering their significance in Lebanese cuisine, and we were not disappointed.
The mezze is a twist on the traditional creamy chickpea dip, topped with crispy cauliflower and lightly spiced Yemen salsa, served with a toasted warm flatbread. Dubbing it the ‘Unsworth of Hommos’ is only appropriate. Even if you’re not too keen on hommos, it’s worth a try. Our only regret was not asking for some to take home with us.
The Fattoush salad was equally delightful. A classic yet simple Middle Eastern salad, topped with toasted pitta with a tangy pomegranate molasses dressing.
We tried the Spinach and Feta Borek and the Lamb Kofta wrap platter for our mains. The Spinach & Feta Borek, another new addition for spring, boasts a delightful texture that is both flaky and creamy, while also being satisfyingly filling. Borek can be compared to the Greek spanakopita, but we found the borek lighter. The Borek is complimented by Kalamata olives alongside tomato and spiced yoghurt sauce.
Our second main, the Lamb Kofta, was cooked to perfection with the light and fluffy wrap holding it together. What really set the dish above others, however, was the thoughtful accompaniments. The same hommos from our starter was a warm welcome and the pickled cucumber, onion, iceberg lettuce, and tomato all added a fresh and vibrant touch to the meal, perfectly balancing out the rich flavours of the lamb.
We also took a falafel salad home, which is a perfect meal for lunchtime: light and refreshing. If there’s only one thing Comptoir Libanais should be getting right, it’s those falafels, and thank god they delivered.
It was promising to see that there are numerous options available for vegetarians and other dietary requirements with an even distribution of meat and meat-free dishes.
The price of mains varies between £11.95 – £19.95. Just a main would be perfect for a light lunch, otherwise, it’s a good decision to start with some mezze plates or choose a side.
Despite being sated by our mains and starters, we couldn’t resist trying some of their desserts. We opted for the new spring Baklawa Sandwich and the Comptoir Sundae.
When the Baklawa Sandwich arrived, we did feel slightly underwhelmed at the portion size (obviously eyes bigger than our stomachs). But once we had our first mouthfuls, we quickly remembered how sickly, yet ever so indulgent, Baklawa can be. Thankfully, the vanilla ice cream balanced out the sweetness. Smothered in date and tahini molasses, pistachios and rose petals, it’s definitely a creative concept.
The Comptoir Sundae is what you’d expect from a sundae – chaos. The layers of ice cream, baklava crumble, date molasses, halva, intense chocolate brownie and sesame brittle sprinkled with crunchy pistachios create a sweet explosion with a hint of nuttiness.
Our visit to Comptoir Libanais was perfectly timed at the end of a busy week of deadlines and exams, providing the ideal start to a weekend to wind down and recuperate. It would make an excellent venue to dine with friends, sharing a selection of starters and mains amongst a large group. With an extensive range of mezze, going as just a pair poses the dilemma of which dishes to prioritise.
Alternatively, the drinks section was just as impressive and could be a reason to visit with friends alone, especially since you can get £5 off by downloading the Comptoir Libanais app.
Comptoir Libanais is open from 11am-10pm Monday to Thursday, and 11am-11pm on Friday to Saturday. Head there for a Sunday reset too from 11am-9pm. Book a table online via their website.