The traditional recipes of the mothers of the Middle East and North Africa are expertly recreated at Comptoir Libanais in a special sharing menu for Ramadan.
It’s the month in the Islamic calendar when fasting is required from dawn to sunset and families eat together at the same time, each day, for 30 days.
The menu has been specially created by Comptoir Libanais founder Tony Kitous and is inspired by memories of his childhood when he would help his mother with her cooking.
It starts with something light to break the fast – rose and honey laban. This is a perfectly balanced drink – both sweet and slightly salty, a rich natural drinking yoghurt perfectly complimented by a good hit of honey.
Next came the shared mezze starter, which really shone through and highlighting the diversity of flavours that Kitous and his team wanted to capture.
This featured the soup of the day, a warming and cleansing dhal soup, subtly flavoured with pepper, (although this could be another type of soup or lamb harira, a traditional North African lamb soup, enriched with fiery chilli and flavoursome cumin).
Alongside the soup was a Lebanese salad known as fattoush, a crispy, textured, aromatic salad, made with tomatoes, cucumber and toasted pitta.
Next up was the classic dish of hummus, a wonderfully simple dip made with chickpeas and tahini, garnished with chickpeas and a slight drizzle of olive oil, making it that extra bit special.
Also featured in the starter is samboussek, heavenly bite-size moreish pastries filled with feta and halloumi, flavoured with a hint of sesame. Lastly, was a earthy beetroot labneh dip made with a traditional strained natural yogurt cheese mixed with beetroot.
Accompanying the mezze starter was a stack of flatbreads perfect for dunking and dipping.
Generosity is key with Comptoir Libanais. Although it may be a set menu, there’s not one but four types of mains to choose from.
One is the mixed grill, a combination of lamb kofta, chicken kofta and chicken shish taouk, cooked on a traditional hot grill and served with vermicelli rice and salad.
Also featured is the traditional tagine, a slow-cooked chicken and green olive stew, flavoured with a secret combination of spices and preserved lemon.
The third option is fatter kibbeh – minced lamb and bulgar wheat parcels. This is a flavoursome dish featuring a tahini and yoghurt sauce, fried onions and pomegranate and simply served with rice.
Finally, there’s the vegetarian option – aubergine moussaka, a beautifully cooked dish with chickpeas and tomatoes, in which all the flavours meld together. A dish perfect for meat and non-meaters alike.
You also get a tall glass of Amandine, a fruity, sweet and summery apricot juice garnished with pomegranates, the red jewels of the Middle East.
Last but not least, there are two dessert options to choose from. Either mouhalabia, a Lebanese set milk dessert, served with a confit of dried fruits and flavoured with the rich, floral essence of orange blossom water.
Or you can choose a portion of baklawa, an assortment of pastries made with nuts and doused in honey syrup.
Both options are truly decadent sweet endings. And if that’s not enough, you can choose either a revitalizing and fresh rose mint tea or coffee to finish off your meal.
The set sharing menu is priced £24.95 and available every day from 6pm until 14th June.
It’s the perfect way to break your fast after a long day, whilst spending time with your nearest and dearest or whoever else you may be with.
If you’re inspired by this menu, Tony’s latest book Feasts from the Middle East, shares many of the recipes his mum used to cook for him, along with a feast of other dishes that are served in the restaurants.
18-19 The Avenue, Spinningfields.