London’s Chelsea neighbourhood has a lot of restaurants to choose from (I’m guessing so does New York’s area of the same name) but sometimes you want to go to a stylish bistro that delivers good food without any attitude.
Comptoir Libanaise has carved out an intimate but stylish little spot in Duke of York Square – not your typical streetfront presentation, but rather a tucked away location. Very accessible to anyone visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, the lovely and glowing – it was evening when we visited – corner has enough sparkle to qualify as a “Chelsea hotspot” but also keeps quiet as to not offend the Duke of York Square neighbours. It was far too chilly for outside seating last week, but one hopes the noise ordinances are lifted by the spring so diners can relax outside and people watch.
LOVELY SPACE, WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD?
Til then, it’s Lebanese lamb in the cozy, busy, pink, yellow and blue market-style interior. Actually, in addition to lamb, the smart choice to start with is a collection of hot and cold meze: we went with mouth-watering lamb kibbeh, tabbouleh, crispy falafel, hummos, a baba ghanoush which my dining partner couldn’t get enough of, and a trio of cheese samboussek, which were disappointingly dry and flavourless.
For mains we both leaned towards lamb – choosing the prune and lamb tagine and the mixed grill plate. The tagine was not overly pruney; the butternut squash bites hiding inside complimented the winter flavour, and had chunks of meat so tender it fell apart under your fork. The couscous was fluffy, the portion perfect.
Feeling very full, we attempted to conquer the the mixed grill, but Comptoir Libanaise gives you a lot to work on. Lamb, chicken – this was a satisfying plateful of flavours and textures, with a well-dressed salad, juicy meat kebabs, and flavoursome rice with a brothy taste.
No, not a full one. We were happily stuffed, so stuck to a single scoop of ice cream with orange blossom sultanas, dates, figs and apricots. Delicious, but all we could manage.
Founded by Tony Kitous in 2008, Comptoir Libanais means “Lebanese counter”, as in a Britished-up souk. There are a few locations across London, but this layout is ore bijoux and more homey. Make sure to purchase items to take home, from baklava to harissa paste to your very own fez. None of the menu offerings are reinventing the wheel, but this is good clean food that doesn’t leave you feeling weighted down.
King Tut is coming to the Saatchi, and we know where we will be having dinner after.
53-54 DUKE OF YORK SQUARE
LONDON SW3 4LY
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