Comtoir Libanais, 1-5 Exhibition Road, SW7

This “Lebanese canteen and delicatessen” chain opened the doors to its fourth premises in South Kensington at the end of 2011. This latest opening looks onto the newly pedestrianised area of Exhibition Road and is next door to the ever-popular Casa Brindisa. In spite of this stiff competition next door, it is doing a roaring trade, indeed when we visited, more so than Brindisa.

It has a vibrant, colourful ambience with mosaic tiled floors, bright red chairs and walls lined with various items for sale, from teapots and shoulder bags, to all manner of foodstuffs including cous cous, jars of chutney and pickle, wine and Turkish delight. This combined to create a modern yet authentic bazaar-like feel, very fitting! There is also an open prep kitchen in the dining room where you can see your plates being assembled, this adds to the bustle, the main kitchen is downstairs.

The menu contains all the familiar Middle Eastern dishes including mezze dishes, tagines, cous cous, grilled meats such as lamb kofte and salads. The breakfast menu looks particularly appealing and is on the list for a return visit. We opted for a mezze platter, some haloumi and lamb kofta. We had the mezze platter for one person, which was perfect to share alongside other things for two, and would have been a generous full meal for one. It included crumbly, flavoursome falafel, what I think was a spinach and feta pie, hommos, baba ganuj and a lentil and rice salad. It was all perfectly fresh and packed full of flavour. The two stars were the hommos, which was silky smooth and the falafel, which is a personal favourite anyway, but it was light, fresh and not at all greasy.

The thick slab of salty haloumi was grilled to perfection and was set off beautifully by a sweet fig jam, not a hint of rubberyness. Finally, the kofte was a generous size, four large pieces and was accompanied by rice, some garlic yoghurt and harrissa. The level of spice was warming and not overpowering.

On the recommendation of the very amenable and attentive restaurant manager, we had a glass of the house red and rose, which was Lebanese, and delicious.

Our bill was a nice surprise in two ways, firstly it was very reasonable at £60 (this included four glasses of wine) and secondly because it was presented along with a little plate of honey-drenched baklava.

This is a great addition to the area and totally worth a visit. 

Comptoir Libanais