I love Lebanese food. Lebanon is one of the countries that I wish I could rock up in and travel through. I’d eat delicious grilled meats and fresh salads and smoke shisha and wear harem pants, all while riding a camel and listening to people break into “Prince Ai” …Ok, so my version of Lebanon may be the Disney-fied version of dreams, but the cuisine is still one of my favorites. I enjoyed it immensely in Dubai, and was over the moon when Beirut opened up in Nicolson Square as “The first Lebanese restaurant in Edinburgh”.
I should go ahead and say that I’ve been three times now: twice for lunch and once for dinner. I always get the same things. But, luckily I take different people each time and their orders almost always add variety to our table, and allow me to try things without veering from my favourites.
This time we didn’t set out to go to Beirut. I met up with a friend and we wandered around trying to think of somewhere we wanted to eat lunch. We couldn’t decide and every menu we checked out didn’t inspire. So we settled on Buffalo’s, but it being a Sunday—not in the Fringe season—it was closed till 5pm. We strolled around the corner and I suggest Beirut.
We went in and had our choice of seats. Literally, we were the only two people in the small dining area. That was to be expected though, since it was now nearing 2pm and past the lunch time rush. The white walls and ceilings make the room feel larger and airier than it is, while the windows cut out of the thick walls, along with the beans (which looks suspiciously fake, or ‘enhanced’) reminded us that we were in an old Edinburgh stone building with the wind howling outside.
The menu is large, but tailored. There is a lunch menu that allows for 1 course for £6.50 and 3 courses for £7.95. Starters come in an array of typical Lebanese/Mediterranean fare of hummus (which is homemade and delicious here), Baba Ganouj and a couple of stew-like options. And, you get free bread with any lunch-menu starter.
Mains include the usual chicken, lamb, moussaka, falafel, and stews and come served with vermicelli rice and salad.
Thing is, we were too late to order off the lunch menu, and went a la carte. I always try the tabbouleh from the cold starters menu. I simply love this salady dish. The mix of parsley, tomato, mint, onion, cracked wheat, in an intensely lemony/olive oil dressing is one of my all-time favourite foods. And, that being said, Beirut is the only place I’ve had it that comes close to replicating the dish. Today, though, my tabbouleh still had the fresh flavours I love and the lemony zing, but there was too much oil in the dish, in fact, I couldn’t eat the bottom bit of the bowl (which is a large enough portion for at least two people) due to the inch or so of oil.
K ordered a lemonade, which never materialized, and had the falafel. It came with lackluster presentation, but what can they do with four balls of falafel aside from place them symmetrically on a plate of lettuce with a bowl of tarator sauce in the middle. K, said they were delicious, though, and get extra points for the crunchy outside and still squishy interior, but the tarator was a bit too salty when combined with the falafel.
Our mains took long enough that we knew they were cooked form scratch. Not to say that it was too long at all, but having been there during a busy service, I know they turn out dishes much faster when the restaurant is full. I ordered the Shis Tawouk, which is marinated, grilled chicken with rice and salad. I asked for no rice (I find rice to often be a pointless stomach filler) and extra salad, no problem. K ordered the Moussaka.
When the mains arrived, they looked simply made from fresh ingredients. The plating wasn’t fancy, with my salad piled on and the bowl of moussaka sitting by a stack of rice and smattering of salad, but the proof is in the taste. And my chicken was really good with the flavours of the lemon coming through in the marinade and the finely charred bits that told me how close they came to the flame. Sadly, the skewered pieces were different sizes today and while the smaller ones were perfectly moist and lovely on the inside while still being charred on the outside, the larger pieces were pink in the middle…a bit too ‘raw chicken’ gummy for my liking, so we sent it back.
|Shish Tawouk (take 1)|
Our waitress apologized and they quickly made me another whole meal. This time, the bits of chicken were a bit more charred on the outside, but they still were juicy inside. I feel I must say that I’ve had this same meal 3 times at Beirut and this is the only time it has happened, and it was quickly rectified, and since this was the case, and cause it was so darn tasty, I’ll return and order it again.
K’s moussaka was rich and hearty. This version of the dish was more a stew than the moussaka I am used to seeing, you know the one, it looks more like lasagna than anything else. The chickpeas added a bit of bite to the dish, thought it was a bit too sweet for my palate. The side dishes were good, unremarkable, but well seasoned, if simple salads and rice.
Overall, I still rather like Beirut. This time there were some hiccups in the service and food, but having been before when both were impeccable, I dare say that it was our own fault for going in the middle of the afternoon when we should have been having a roast in some nondescript pub.
But then again, give me shish tawouk and tabbouleh over mince and tatties or a roast dinner any day.
It is BYOB as well and they have shisha if you sit outside.
Scores on the Doors
Out of 20 MJ gives Beirut:
3/5 for food
2/5 for presentation
3/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 11/20
Today’s Lunch Questers were: MJ, K
We wore: Ed Uni Hoodie, Green flowey shirt
We ate: Falafel with tarator sauce, tabbouleh, shish tawouk, and moussaka
We drank: Tap water and an imaginary lemonade.
Total Bill: c.£30
24 Nicolson Square,
EH 8 9BX
Phone : 0131 667 9919