All-day dining chain, Comptoir Libanais, that specialises in Lebanese and Middle Eastern fare, has opened its latest venue in one of the arches outside of the ever-growing London Bridge station. Whilst the prime location is an obvious appeal to founder Tony Kitous, with the commuting hub already awash with an over-abundance of eating and drinking spots, why should people choose to spend their hard-earned money Comptoir Libanais? We popped on down to the barely opened restaurant to investigate.
London Bridge at rush hour is no joy, especially not in deepest darkest, wet and grumpy Winter. Luckily, we don’t have to brave the weather long as Comptoir Libanais is located in an arch right next to the new Tooley Street exist of the overground station. We shuffle inside and are immediately smacked in the face by vibrant colours and a whole host of glittering visual oddities and eccentricities. A small, fake cherry blossom tree sits in front of the door, whilst rose decorations entwine themselves through panelling by banquettes. Shiny Moroccan teapots pricely labelled hang from walls à la Souk and artwork showcases celebrities adorned with colourful fez hats. This is certainly a welcome departure from the onslaught outside.
Our host seats us and leaves us to flick through the menu, that has been sectioned into Cocktails & Wines; Mezze; Mains & Wraps; and Desserts. We elect to sample a variety of recommended dishes and are brought an incredible fragrant and sweet cocktail of rum, pomegranate and rose water, to sip on whilst we wait for our dishes to arrive.
It’s not long before our small table is overflowing with food, and we feel a bit like we’re visiting an auntie who is determined to feed us until we pop! A Mezze Platter containing hommos, baba ghanuj, tabbouleh, falafel beetroot labné, cheese samboussek, flatbread and pickles, is presented as merely a side plate, and we are further treated to delicious spiced Batara Harra potatoes with fresh coriander, garlic and chilli; as well as Halloumi and Tomato, and Fattoush. The platter is a mixed bag, with tabbouleh, smoky babba ghanuj and beetroot labné coming well prepared and served. However the falafel and sambousseks are both dry, cold and tasteless. The halloumi is similarly cold, and whilst the service has been prompt, we think that the timing of the dance between servers and the kitchen is off – not surprisingly with a new opening and hopefully something that will be rectified soon.
The fattoush, on the other hand, is stunning. An explosion of colours and flavours, fresh mint adds a freshness that tickles the tastebuds alongside the bursting pomegranate seeds. Toasted flatbread adds a textural play and the pomegranate and balsamic vinegar dressing is perfectly balanced.
Already full, we are presented with our mains of a Mixed Grill (lamb kofta, chicken kofta and chicken taouk) and Lamb Kofta Fattet – a grilled, wonderfully spiced lamb kofta slathered in warm tahini and yoghurt sauce and finished with long, crisp caramelised onions, chickpeas, a scattering of pomegranate seeds and toasted flatbread drizzled with olive oil. The onions add a deep sweetness that mingle in the mouth with the bold flavour of the meat, whilst the pomegranate stops the dish’s fatty elements from getting too rich. Of the platter, the chicken kofta is the surprise standout, perfectly seasoned with an incredible fragrant taste. The accompanying vermicelli rice is billowy and flavoursome.
We usher our leftovers into a takeaway box that our helpful server happily brings us, so that we have room for our plentiful dessert selection. A plate of baklawa is always a welcome sight, and we wolf a couple of the sweet morsels down with some Fresh Rose Mint Tea, whose delicate sweetness and fragrant nature pair beautifully. The Rose Mouhalabia is a gelatinous revelation: traditional Lebanese milk pudding flavoured with rose syrup and topped with roasted pistachios, it has a creamy texture with none of the sickliness or fill-factor. Our favourite, however, has to be the Mango & Vanilla Cheesecake that combines light vanilla cheesecake with a layer of sweet and heady mango purée.
We roll out of the door feeling entirely spoilt and very happy. Whilst being a chain, Comptoir Libanais has managed to hold onto a homely charm of service and offering that is incredibly appearing in the jungle of voiceless, faceless brands occupying London Bridge’s many, commercial arches. If you are looking for a weekday lunchtime escape, this is a great option.
SU46 London Bridge Station, Tooley Street, London, SE1 2TF