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The Places I Go, Comptoir Libanais



One of the things I really like doing as a food blogger is being afforded the opportunity to enjoy food in new places and venues.  Restaurant Reviews don't  happen really often, but when they do, I am always really happy to do try something new! 

I was recently contacted and asked if I would like to enjoy a meal at the new Comptoir Libanais which had recently opened up in Cheshire Oaks, which is a huge shopping complex not too far from where I live.  I was offered a meal for two on the house.  The Comptoir Libanais dining experience promises to bring the delicious flavours of Lebanon and the Middle East to the the British customer. With a myriad of bright colours and flavours the food reflects the stunning interiors of all the restaurants.   



Founded by Tony, Kitous, there are a number of Comptoir Libanais restaurants now open in the UK, each one offering a fabulous Lebanese dining experience.  It has always been Tony's desire “to create a place for everyone to eat and drink in humble and friendly surroundings that is affordable for all”, so to see the Comptoir family expand in England's North West brings much joy to Tony and the team. Comptoir has a strong presence in the North with restaurants in Leeds and Manchester and Cheshire was the natural next location. 

Tony grew up in the kitchen where his love for food developed, with his mother and grandmother always cooking delicious meals for him and his family at their home. This love of food and his upbringing is what drives his ambition to share the unique food and culture from Lebanon and the Middle East with the rest of the world.


I brought my friend Tina along with me to enjoy the experience and from the moment we entered the restaurant we were struck by the authentic feel of it, the bright colours, the delicious smells and fabulous atmosphere.  It felt just as if we had stumbled onto a wonderful Souk somewhere in the Middle East, with a vibrancy in colour and a truly down home feeling.  The colours were a treat for the eyes and everyone was quite friendly and helpful.  At first there was some confusion as they weren't expecting us, and didn't appear to know anything about it, but that was quickly sorted by the very capable and friendly staff which showed us to a nice window side table where we could view the whole restaurant from.  I loved the colour and feel of the furnishings.  Brightly coloured and patterned vinyl seating, and red painted wooden chairs, mixed with a red  striped bench seats vie for your attention along with beautiful mosaic tile patterned floors and fabulous pendulum lighting.  I found myself wanting some of those light fixtures for my own home.  The walls were lined with pictures of famous people wearing colourful Fez's and beautiful handbags which were for sale, silver tea pots, also for sale. 


It felt so authentic and real.  We both knew instantly that we were in for a real treat.  I think about the only thing that was missing was some music.  I think a bit of Middle Eastern music playing in the background would be nice, but this is such a busy and happening place and filled with a mosaic of people's, speaking different languages etc.  We felt comfortable and at home.  Tina remarked that she felt as if she had been dropped into the middle of a lovely Eastern Bazaar. I felt the same.  




Within the “souk” feel of the restaurant there is also a real “souk” (market), created by Tony to help guests find hard to find ingredients which are essential to make Middle Eastern food. These include spic’s such as Sumac, Zataar, or Orange Blossom, Rose Water, Tahina, and sweet treats such as Nougat and Baklawa. There is also homeware and goodies and handmade bags which are made by woman in local villages. For those who want to cook Lebanese food for their family and friends, there are two cookbooks, written by Tony and they have recently launched their third highly successful cookbook: Feasts from the Middle East . The book aims to enable guests to create a taste of the Middle East in their own kitchen at home.  (Shhh, don't tell Todd, but I ordered one from Amazon!)


The menu is made of recipes which Middle Eastern and Lebanese mothers use at home including Tony’s mother. Comptoir is a place that serves food all day from breakfast until dinner. It is a restaurant where everyone can eat casually and the food is served with warm and friendly hospitality, just like back home in the Middle-East and North Africa. Breakfast is an important meal in the Arab culture, the menu includes dishes such as Shakshuka - a classic dish made up of slow cooked tomatoes, red onions and peppers mixed with parsley, coriander and garlic. Topped with a fried egg and crumbled feta and served with pita. Alternatively , Man’ousha flat bread or full Lebanese breakfast.



The all day menu includes a huge variety of different dishes from a large selection of hot and cold mezze which are ideal for a quick snack or to share with friends and family. All the usual dips, salads and dishes are also available, from Baba Ghanuj to Marinated Jawaneh - Chargrilled marinated chicken wings with garlic, lemon & pomegranate molasses. Warm Lebanese wraps (served with a Comptoir salad and pickles) are especially popular, as are the Marinated Grills and Tagines.



No Lebanese meal is complete without something sweet there is a selection of Baklawa and Lebanese desserts, which are delicate, fragrant and delicious, such as Dark Chocolate Orange and Cardamom Cake. Refreshing homemade lemonades such as Romana - orange blossom water and pomegranate lemonade and Rosa - rose, lemon and lime lemonade, as well as Fresh Rose Mint Tea , served in a silver teapot are the perfect accompaniments to the meal as well as freshly squeezed juices, cocktails and a selection of Lebanese wines and beers, specially imported from the Bekaa Valley.

We were really spoilt for choice.  They offer a variety of drinks for their customers.  Hot drinks such as teas, coffees, chocolates (both European and Middle Eastern choices) along with a variety of wines, beers, spirits, cocktails and cold drinks.  We don't drink alcohol, tea or coffee, but were keen to try some authentic Home-made Lebanese Lemonades.


Tina chose for herself a Toufaha, which is an Apple, Mint and Ginger lemonade. (regular £2.95)


For myself I ordered a Roza, which was Lemon and Lime, with Rose Syrup.  (Regular £2.95)  Oh boy, but both drinks were amazing!  We tasted each other's (of course!) and I loved both flavours.  The Toufaha was spicier than the Roza, but both were deliciously pleasant and served with plenty of ice and a lovely paper straw!  (Yay!) 

There is a huge selection of Mezze, both hot and cold, available, along with a variety of Dips, Soups,  and Salads.  The people next to us were having a Mezze platter for two and it looked fantastic. You can also get a Mezze Platter for one. We knew we wouldn't have room for that, along with a main and dessert.
  



We didn't want to overly fill up before our main course, so we ordered two separate Mezze to share.   All were moderately priced, ranging from £2.95 for a selection of pickles to £6.25 for the Lamb Kibbeh.



(Sorry we had taken a bite before I took the photo)

Lamb Kibbeh (3 pieces) (£6.25)  - Minced lamb cracker wheat parcels, filled with lamb, pine nuts and onion, served with a mint yogurt sauce.



Cheese Samboussek  (£5.50) - Pastry parcels filled with Halloumi & Feta cheese, topped with sesame seeds, served with mint yogurt sauce. 

I think our favourite of the two was the Cheese Samboussek, but both were delicious.  The Lamb was nicely spiced, and not greasy in the least, with a crisp crust and flavourful filling.  I love Kibbeh, and this was very good, not too spicy, but well flavoured.  


The Cheese Samboussek, had lots of filling and we both fell in love with it.  Tina wanted to show you the insides.  Both dishes came with a delicious creamy dip and pickles.  I wasn't sure what the pickles were, but we both enjoyed them.  There was a type of hot pepper, and a crisp green stick with we think was cucumber, but my favourite were the pink ones, which you can't see here because I had already eaten it. It was so good.  I saw jars of them for sale, so when we go back (and we will because we want to bring our husbands with us) I am going to buy some for here at home. Seriously tasty!   Both Mezze were a nice size and not overly filling, which was a plus for me as I don't want to already be full before my main course arrives.  A good Mezze should whet the appetite for what is to come and these did just that!

They are a variety of warm Wraps on the menu ( Falafel Lamb Kofta, Chicken Taouk, Halloumi & Olive) all served with a Comptoir salad and pickles.  You can also get a Wrap platter.  There are four different kinds of Large Salads, with vegetarian and vegan options.  There are also Grill options and Fattets, several favourites, and Tagines along with a variety of sides available.

For our main, we again chose two different options which we planned on sharing.  They didn't bat an eyelid when we asked for two separate plates.  Let me tell you, it was really difficult to choose only two things.  I could easily have eaten everything on the menu. It all sounded very appealing! 



One choice was the Chicken Moussakhan (£11.95) - Roasted marinated half baby chicken in pomegranate molasses, walnuts, and sumac onion confit, served with Comptoir salad & Vermicelli Basmati Rice.   

THIS WAS GORGEOUS! 

The portion was very generous, the chicken was well flavoured and tender.  Delicious with a crisp skin. I normally take the skin off my chicken, but I ate the skin, I couldn't help myself.  The salad was nice and well prepared with a lovely dressing. (I have had some pretty manky salads in restaurants over here)  This salad passed my salad test.  I also really enjoyed the rice.  I love Vermicelli rice.  This had a faint flavour of chicken stock.  All told, we were both very pleased with this option.  



For our other option we ordered the Lamb & Prune Tagine (£12.50) - Tender pieces of lamb with prunes, butternut squash, roasted almonds and sesame seeds.   We chose couscous as the go with.  

This was also delicious, with plenty of prunes, lamb, squash and a nice thick gravy.  It was nicely spiced with a really fruity flavour, which went very well with the sweetness of the lamb. The lamb was so tender it fell apart. 

A variety of sides are also available on the menu . . .  rice, couscous,  olives, quinoa, Batata Harra (Lebanese spiced fries), Hommos,  and a selection of pickles.  




There are plenty of options for dessert and the sweet tooth!  Dark Chocolate & Red Rose Berries Cake sounded good.   So did the Orange and Almond Cake, the Mango and Vanilla Cheese Cake and the Chocolate Brownie.  There are also Baklawa and ice cream or frozen yogurt. We wanted something really authentic and light so we chose the Orange Blossom Mouhalabia and a selection of Baklawa.


Orange Blossom Mouhalabia £5.45 - a traditional Lebanese milk pudding with date, fig, apricot, prune and sultana compote.

Can you say TO DIE FOR!  This is what we wrote down . . .  Smooth, silky, light  and satisfying . . .  this was a clear favourite.  We had no problem polishing it off and the compote went beautifully with it.  It almost tasted faintly like Turkish delight.  We are so in love with this, that I am now looking for a recipe to make it at home. We want it for our Christmas lunch dessert!  



The Baklawa  (£4.95) was amazing also. I love, LOVE Baklawa. It is like one of my favourite things on earth. There was a very generous serving of six pieces.  It was all delicious.  You can also buy  the Baklawa in the "Souk" along with a multitude of other goodies.  

With an ample Breakfast Menu, a Children's Menu, as well as a Takeaway Menu, there something here for everyone, and every occasion.    



We were very happy with our meal.   It was well prepared, delicious and the servings quite ample.  The service was excellent.  The atmosphere was excellent.  All-told this was a very positive experience for both of us.  Lunch for two, with drinks, excluding tip, came to about £50.00.  All in all we gave this dining experience a perfect 10 out of 10!  It is a very family friendly restaurant as well.  The couples sitting next to us had small children with them.  I loved the colour and the vibe of the place. There is also an upstairs.  Washrooms are available, both regular on the upper floor, and a Handicapped accessible on the main floor.  Very clean.


We will return for sure. 

Many thanks to Comptoir Libanais, Cheshire Oaks for this really enjoyable dining experience! 

Special notes -

Tony started his entrepreneurial flair from a young age selling lemonades and sandwiches outside his home on the street in Algeria. This drive inspired him to come to London with very little and grow the restaurant business that he has today. The authentic journey of flavours from the regions where Tony spent his childhood and where he still regularly travels now, continuing to source ingredients and decorations that will enhance the intoxicating eating experience of the Middle East.

The food is available to eat in the restaurant or to take home back to the office or to your home. Takeaway food is part and parcel of Middle Eastern culture and so Comptoir Libanais s proud to offer this service to guests at the Cheshire Oaks restaurant. Not only this, but the team will soon be launching an exclusive delivery service with Deliveroo . Comptoir Libanais will, therefore, provide the perfect option for eating at home or for picking up on the way back from work.

The restaurant also offers a large dedicated children’s menu with an activity pack and colouring in section to keep the little ones entertained. Priced at £5.95 it includes a main course, drink and dessert and includes favourites such as Halloumi Halloumi platter with falafel and hommos and Chicken wings with hommos and Lebanese fries.


About Comptoir Libanais 
There are 23 restaurants across London and around the country, including Manchester, Bath, Leeds, Reading, Birmingham, Oxford and Exeter. Comptoir Libanais also has a branch in Holland and is in the process of expanding further internationally, with restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Founded in 2008 by Tony Kitous, the name means Lebanese Counter, as it is a place where everyone can eat casually and enjoy Middle Eastern food, served with warm and friendly hospitality, just like back home.

www.comptoirlibanais.co.uk
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Marie Rayner
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4 comments:

  1. The restaurant is dazzling and I love Middle Eastern food, so I wish I had been in Tina's shoes!

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    1. It was really nice Jeanie. Great atmosphere, service and fantastic food! xo

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  2. I love Lebanese food, especially kibbeh, ma'amoul, and stuffed grape leaves. Used to be a sort of Lebanese deli in a grocery store in Salem, NH. We'd shop there just so we could stop at the deli on the way out and have lunch on the way home, which was about 15 miles away. The food was so good. Lucky you, having what looks like a fab restaurant so near.

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    Replies
    1. It was all delicious and I hope to be able to go back and take Todd! xo

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