I now own a fez. About bloody time.
PCB was invited to the opening of the newest location of the growing UK-based outfit Comptoir Libanais, this 100-seater tucked into a new/revamped stretch of between the east end of London Bridge Station and Bermondsey.
Founded by Tony Kitous in 2008, Comptoir Libanais means “Lebanese counter”, as in, a shop, a souk, and you can indeed purchase takeaway items, from harissa paste to jars of molasses to your very own fez. Mine is the traditional red – goes with everything – but the staff were sporting a rainbow.
“We are so excited to be opening Comptoir Libanais in this iconic space. We can’t wait to share the love of Lebanese food and culture to the locals of London Bridge,” Kitous said to the press.
The decor here is gorgeous. Imagine an almost feminine marketplace/ dining room, possibly designed by a foreign cousin of Frida Kahlo. The lighting is better than at the one other Comptoir Libanais, in Bath, to which I’d been. The decorators have learned that no one needs to be able to do minor surgery before the third course, and here the tasteful lighting sets off the golds and pinks.
Lovely space, what about the food?
Comptoir serves home-cooking style recipes, their tabouleh standing out as fresh and zesty, the halloumi benefitting from the slight minty seasoning and the grilled meats done to perfection. We somehow managed half of a divine mango vanilla cheesecake that was light as a feather. None of the menu offerings are reinventing the wheel, but somehow they are doing it just that much better than their competitors. A full meal doean’t leave you feeling weighted down.
And – great for the location near a busy train station – you can even pop in for breakfast. We didn’t get to sample the early morining fare but my friend tells me the classic Shakshuka, a dish made up of slow cooked tomatoes and topped with a fried egg and served with pita, is the best breakfast he’s had outside of his own table. I’ll be back to try it.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.