Comptoir Libanais brings the Levant to London

Updated 19 September 2018
0

Comptoir Libanais brings the Levant to London

  • Comptoir Libanais has 22 branches around the UK
  • The restaurant is known for its colorful interior and delicious food

LONDON: For years, London has been known for embracing culinary tastes from all over the world, served up by establishments ranging from snazzy and glitzy new restaurants to venues that are more than 100 years old and have been handed down from one generation to the next.
Comptoir Libanais (Lebanese Canteen), which was founded in 2008, stands out among the more recent arrivals for bringing a true, authentic taste of the Levant to London and beyond, with almost two dozen restaurants in the English capital and other cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool.

For years when he was a child growing up in Algeria, Tony Kitous, the restaurant’s founder and owner, watched his mother create tasty meals for his family. This was something he carried with him when he moved to England at the age of 18.
“I came to London with a dream but it wasn’t until I scrubbed dishes and slept in friends’ houses that I realized what I wanted my dream to be: To bring a taste of home to London, a city I grew to enjoy and love,” he said.
Kitous’s passion for Middle Eastern food and what it symbolizes, the culture and hospitality, is clear in his colorfully decorated restaurants, which resemble traditional Beirut canteens or souks. The menu offers a mix of hearty and light dishes, including mezzes, wraps, grills, salads and traditional side dishes.
“I want all visitors to feel right at home, even if they’re on the go,” said Kitous. “The patrons that try the restaurant for the first time can see how we choose the freshest ingredients from our partners and can truly feel as if they’re in the Levant region.
“Lebanese food is universal. It has a bit of everything in it without having the ingredients over powering one another — all dishes complement one another.”
Every dish, every ingredient and even the plates on which they are served are personally selected by Kitous. “Nothing but fresh is allowed here,” he said.
It all sounds great but does the food live up to the expectations? I dined at the Oxford Street branch and found that the fatoush, hummus and cheese sambousak were great starters. The fresh halloumi manousha had just the right amount of crispiness around the edge, with a soft middle complementing the cheese.
The lamb and prune tagine, served with a side of couscous, swept us to the streets of Morocco. The lamb was soft and melted in the mouth, complemented by the sweetness of the prunes. As a vegetarian option, the aubergine tagine was balanced and tasty.
For Arab diners the menu is filled with the tastes of home and it is hard to imagine how anyone could limit themselves to ordering just one dish. Every option was perfectly seasoned and the table was a beautiful, tasty mess — truly a canteen experience.
The interior design of all Comptoir Libanais venues is similar, offering a burst of color and eccentricity through mismatched tiles, colorful furniture and walls adorned with old Arabic movie posters, including one of legendary actress Sirine Jamal Al-Dine with her signature smile. Thanks to an open kitchen in the back, the restaurant is always bustling with activity and the sounds of patrons enjoying their meals. You could really sense the hints of Kitous’s childhood memories imprinted in the decor. Whether you are in the mood for a hearty breakfast, a quick lunch or a good, delicious dinner to end your day, Comptoir Libanais will not disappoint.


Startup of the Week: For the love of chocolate

Joudy Delights take part in many of Jeddah’s public events. (Supplied)
Updated 11 December 2018
0

Startup of the Week: For the love of chocolate

  • The store offers additional flavors every month for a limited time

The love for chocolates transcends geographical boundaries, ideologies and cultures. Chocolates are considered a must in times of happiness and to express one’s feelings all across the world.
Saudis also share the love for sweets or chocolates with rest of the world. People in this part of the world do not mind trying different kinds of chocolates — from traditional Arab ones to their European counterparts from as far as Switzerland.
Keeping in view the huge popularity of chocolates in the Kingdom, a Saudi couple decided to launch their own business in 2017. Joudy Delights is a local, home-based specialized chocolate brand that is produced with the highest quality ingredients. The Jeddah-based store is run by 25-year-old housewife Wejdan Shaheen and 29-year-old private sector employee Rakan Nejaim.
Due to stiff competition in this business, it is necessary for an entrepreneur to come up with a novel idea so as to gain an edge over his competitors.
The couple, faced with the same dilemma, chose to introduce a delicious dessert in the market.
“Any new idea needs to go through a lot of experiments. We also had to face the situation when we decided to introduce our famous chocoballs. The finalized version of the product took some time. We had to carefully select the best combination of chocolate and suitable stuffing,” said Nejaim.
Joudy Delights offers milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate that are filled with two types of different chocolates and two types of biscuits which Shaheen calls their “secret mix.”
The store also offers additional flavors every month for a limited time.
“The milk chocolate chocoballs or what we call our original chocoballs is our most popular product,” said Shaheen.
The number of orders per week differs depending on the season, said Nejaim. “But we receive on an average 65-70 orders per week.”
Joudy Delights take part in many of Jeddah’s public events.
“Many of our clients prefer our products at family gatherings like weddings etc.,” Shaheen said.
The store is planning to expand its reach outside Jeddah, and is likely to introduce a delivery service. Joudy Delights can be found at local Saudi talent shop Crate, located in Al-Salamah district.