Comptoir Libanais Manchester aims to make Lebanese food more widely known. Nestled between war-torn Syria and tumultuous Israel, Lebanon could be forgiven for producing depressed cuisine: Comptoir Libanais Manchester’s environment was anything but. Dizzying splashes of vibrant colour with the frenetic fusing of glossy tiles, kitsch prints and miles of merchandise, created a spotlessly clean, immersive dining area. The restaurant’s interior seemed to have been designed by Elton John and Andy Warhol’s love child – not a look I associated with the Near East.
Continuing the colourful theme, Comptoir Libanais’ zingy ‘Toufaha’ (apple, mint, ginger) and ‘Roomana’ (pomegranate, orange blossom) juices were the most refreshing entity my throat had encountered – a revelation. I now no longer regard non-alcoholic drinks the domain of the devout, prepubescent or recovering alcoholics only.
Starters provided mouth-watering salty, golden, succulent halloumi – God’s consolation prize to vegetarians. The accompanying robust tomatoes, vigorous dressing and flavourful olives whisked me away from Spinningfields to the Mediterranean. The simple Baba Ghanuj granted me authentically smokey bread, lifted with bursts of exotic pomegranate.
Regarding mains, a generous hunk of hot lamb was tender, satisfying with well-formed rice. The dish was properly slow-cooked, flavourful, zealously salty but ultimately one dimensional in taste, texture and presentation. Meanwhile, the falafel & fattoush salad was attractively arranged, with pleasingly contrasting colours and shapes. The falafel was skilfully formed, with befittingly crispy out edges and bready, soft centres. The dish provided a glorious balance of sweetness and acidity, and the fresh herbs worked wonders – a rare example of a salad that didn’t need a side of chips to make it delicious.
Comptoir Libanais Manchester produced food as genuine as the charming servers’ smiles – a novelty for chain restaurants. Give it a go.
Atmosphere 8 Cost 8 Quality 8 Service 8