You might not be able to tell, with my fair hair and pale skin, but I was actually born in Dubai and lived there until I was five years old. Despite this, I don’t have any childhood memories of eating Middle Eastern food.
Today, Middle Eastern food is definitely one of my favourite cuisines. I’m particularly in love with Persian food at the moment – I think Sabrina Gahyour is an absolute genius. I recently did one of her cookery courses, which I’ll write about soon. But in the meantime, I was very kindly invited to Comptoir Libanais in Leeds to review their menu.
Of all the chain restaurants I’ve been to, this one definitely has one of the most stand out interiors. It’s so colourful; you feel as if you’re walking straight into a Middle Eastern souk. Antique style tea pots, jars of pomegranate molasses, lemon tea and cookbooks adorn the shelves all available to buy for a reasonable price. The open kitchen at the back with wood fired oven adds drama and a great focal point.
We kicked off the meal with some rather delicious beverages. Jake ordered a lemon and lime vodka lemonade which was zesty, sharp and definitely hit the spot! I was intrigued by the fresh rose mint tea served over ice. It was so refreshing and not too sweet. The perfect accompaniment to the rich spiced dishes that were to come shortly.
We didn’t want to spoil our main meals so we just ordered a some light starters. I was quite intrigued by the Batata Harra, as our friendly and very helpful waiter, Joe, told us these were a little bit like a Lebanese Patatas Bravas. These spiced potatoes with fresh coriander, garlic and chilli were so deliciously moreish! But the spiced chicken wings with garlic, lemon and pomegranate molasses were the star of the show. They were sweet, sticky and sharp – I’m such a sucker for anything served with pomegranate molasses too! We also went for a Fattoush salad which is a Lebanese salad with sumac, olive oil pita crisps and pomegranate molasses dressing. This was crispy and zesty and cut through the richness of the chicken and potatoes.
Right, onto the main event – the mains! Jake went for the mixed grill (of course he did) which was delicious and succulent lamb kofta, chicken kofta and chicken taouk (grilled marinated chicken breast with garlic & fresh thyme). This was served with a fresh side salad and vermicelli rice, which was, by the way, very moreish. To contrast this I ordered the lamb and prune tagine. It had clearly been cooked low and slow as the lamb was deliciously tender. The addition of prunes, butternut squash, roasted almonds and sesame seeds gave the dish some lovely textures and a sweet and sour vibe.
Jake and I were so full by this point – we asked for all our leftovers to be put into a doggy bag! But we couldn’t leave without trying some sweet treats.
Jake is possibly the world’s biggest brownie fan so he opted for the chocolate and tahini brownie with ice cream. I couldn’t fit another ounce of food in my belly so thought a Lebanese Spiced Hot Chocolate would be a fitting way to round off the meal instead. This drink is infused with cinnamon and tahini and sprinkled with halva. I did enjoy it but by the end I found it a little too sweet. But that could just be me, as I tend to prefer a more dark and mysterious hot chocolate.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed Comptoir Libanais. The only slight criticism is I feel it was a little expensive and there are a lot of options in Leeds that are of a similar quality but a lot cheaper. That being said, if you’re looking for a quick pit stop before watching a film at Everyman or while you’re shopping in Trinity, it’s a good option.