Having frequently dined in Lebanese restaurants (not out of choice) particularly in Central London entertaining clients, I have never been a fan of this type of cuisine. Considering most of these restaurants are located in popular Arabic areas such as Edgware Road I was pretty sure I had sampled relatively authentic Lebanese food and concluded it simply wasn't “my cup of tea”. My visit to Al Souk was purely by chance whilst visiting friends in the area.
As an interior designer for a luxury international design house in London I was initially drawn by the restaurants façade and choice of lighting. Warm earthy colours brought to life with striking pink lighting in a theme of Arabic luxury and decadence and outdoor plants completing the look of a stylish Arabic desert oasis. Clearly impressed by this stage I ventured inside for a closer look and was greeted with a smile, an Arabic greeting and welcome soon followed. The interior had a very warm cosy feel, particular on a cold winters evening, with inviting upholstered seating, themed lighting and middle eastern geometric designs completing the look and creating a delightful ambience. After taking a look at the menu and taken in by the charm of the ever smiling front of house host, I asked for a table.
Once at the table, I was introduced to the waiter “Andy” who made sure I was comfortable with typical middle eastern mannerism and hospitality. He attempted to allay my fears of past experiences of Lebanese cuisine and although he was very convincing I was sure “I had heard it all before”. I was taken through the contents of the menu with a brief description of how dishes were prepared, cooked and served. I finally decided on a Mixed Mezze Platter for starters, a Laham Meshwi for my main, which all arrived promptly. The mixed mezze was a combination of salads, hommous, lamb meat balls, falafel croquets and sautéed potato cubes very well presented on platters.
I was extremely surprised with the freshness, taste and punchy flavour of all the items on the mixed mezze, as I had previously found this type of food to be very bland, lacking in flavour and taste, which I simply put down to the style of cooking and the use of herbs and spices from this part of the world. True to form, the Laham Meshwi and Lebanese rice, followed suite with the melt in your mouth lamb cubes consistently cooked throughout with a rich deep flavour complemented with perfectly executed soft white rice. I was truly left with a smile on my face, well at least in-between the times I wasn't busy licking my fingers. I had been shown the light!!! My conversion to Lebanese cuisine (Al-Souk) was complete!!.
As a fussy customer who visits restaurants frequently, these moments of delight are rare occurrences, which makes them even more satisfying. Finally, whilst in my own little cocoon of delight, I was awaken by the sound of the Al-Souk choir in full swing. The restaurant briefly turned from a calm oasis to a crazy theatre of joy with all staff members downing tools, singing “Happy Birthday” whilst clapping and dancing their way to present a cake to the surprised but very excited birthday girl. A brief moment of madness but very well done and certainly enough to add to the great atmosphere.
Thank you Al-Souk, a job very well done and clearly a very satisfied customer!!
If you own or manage Al Souk, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.