In amongst the Christmassy chaos of the Trinity Centre, new Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais offers a welcome glimpse of heavenly summer with its colourful souk-like interiors and delicious exotic food. The new Lebanese canteen is (based next to the Everyman Cinema on the top floor of Trinity) offers tasty Middle Eastern dishes along with a host of beautiful hand-crafted items such as embroidered bags, ornate silver tea pots and exotic delicacies. Stepping inside instantly whisks you away from drizzly old Leeds to a much to a much warmer climate.
Although it’s close proximity to the cinema may cause some confusion (this could have easily ended up being a film review instead) we were greeted warmly by the Comptoir staff who took us over to our table and talked us through the menu. It had been a long Monday so cocktails were the first order of the day; the Comptoir G&T was strong, fresh and citrusy, the perfect concoction of Hayman’s gin, tonic, pink grapefruit and a dash of rose water.
Lebanese food is not something I’ve really tried before so I was keen to test out my tastebuds with a Mezze Sharing Platter; a large starter platter containing a host of small dishes. There was the staple pita bread and hommos (hummus), falafel and some to-die-for cheese sambousek (just like halloumi). But there was also a whole host of dishes I had never tried before, such as tabbouleh, a very fine salad made up of parsley, mint and tomatoes, as well as Baba ghanuj, a delicious smoky aubergine dip with pomegranate seeds. It was the perfect introduction to the flavours of Lebanese cuisine and an ideal way of trying out some different foods if you’re wary of risking the unknown with your main.
This though, is something I would highly recommend. While my dining buddy played it safe, I ordered the Lahme Man’ousha and it turned out to be the most delicious thing we tried all night. It’s basically the Lebanese version of a pizza; minced lamb, diced onions, peppers and chilli on a oven-baked flat bread. Topped with pomegranate seeds and molasses, it had an addictively sweet tinge, and the lighter quality of the flat bread (as opposed to more dense pizza dough) made it incredibly easy to much our way through a whole plateful.
The other main we tried was a succulent grilled half-chicken, flavoursome but not too spicy, with Batata Harra, spiced cube potatoes which were way more satisfying than fries. The diversity of the menu allows you to stick to your Nandos-style safety blanket if you want, or try out something different. The desserts were also a pleasant surprise; for those of you who like to watch the calories, there was delicious organic natural yoghurt, topped with either honey and mixed nuts, Lebanese fig jam or pomegranate seeds. Or for the more indulgent diners (like me) I would recommend the chocolate and tahini brownies, served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream – it may be a rich, chocolately overdose but the lightness of the sponge made it addictively edible.
Yes, it may be that time of year where it’s all about those turkey sandwiches and Christmas dinners, but if you fancy indulging in some exotic, flavoursome fare, then Comptoir Libanais is the perfect alternative.
(Image: Jessica Murray)