The season for festive gatherings, merriment and feasting has arrived. December seems to have crept up on me from nowhere! Where has the year gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were basking in the warm (dare I say hot) sunshine from one of the best summers in recent memory.
Last Sunday my festive feasting started in earnest when I visited Comptoir Libanais with my chum, Angel. We met for lunch in the Exeter branch of the restaurant after a hectic morning for me. I had been teaching some private ballet lessons in preparation for our Royal Academy of Dance ballet exams and it had been an incredibly early start. By the time I had arrived at Comptoir Libanais I was ravenous. My breakfast smoothie seemed like a distant memory. Our booking at 1.30pm couldn’t have come soon enough.
Angel and I were greeted by assistant manager, Simon and we were shown to our table. We were offered the menu but decided to sample the Comptoir Libanais Festive Feast. It felt apt for the beginning of December and the festivities ahead.
In all honesty there is nothing particularly festive about the menu bar the Turkey Kibbeh; little parcels filled with minced turkey and cracked wheat and served with a cranberry and mint yoghurt sauce. The main emphasis is on the word “feast”. There is certainly no shortage of food on this menu!
The menu consists of four courses and costs £24.95 per person with your drinks on top. For a jolly tasty lunch and a drink you would be looking at approximately £30 per head. Pretty good value in my opinion. Let me tell you what Angel and I ate.
We started with a selection of mezze to share. Beautifully presented with the soft purple hue of the beetroot labné adorned with pomegranate seeds snuggling up next to the mint green of the Tabbouleh. Not only was it a visual delight but the flavours were so fresh and authentic. Sitting alongside the purple and greens we were treated to crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside falafel, traditional hommos and the aforementioned turkey kibbeh. Of course plenty of warmed flatbread was to hand to scoop up the smooth dips.
I adore mezze. Having many small plates to choose from and sample makes me a very happy soul indeed. In fact I might even say that a mezze (or other country equivalent – think tapas?) platter might be my favourite way to eat.
I could of happily chowed down on our mezze leaving no room for anything else but Angel and I were in sensible eating mode. We knew what was to come so we’re pacing ourselves. How often have you been in a restaurant and been full to bursting after your starter? Me too. That’s why I was taking it slow.
The festive feast menu has a choice of four options for the main course. I went for the vegetarian option; the aubergine and feta Shakshuka. Angel plumped for the harissa and honey baby chicken. You could have also chosen lamb kofta with spiced tahina or salmon Shakshuka. For the vegans out there ask for the aubergine Shakshuka minus the feta.
My Shakshuka was sublime. A rich tomato and aubergine baked dish topped with crumbled feta cheese and crunchy fried onions. It was seriously good with the aubergine melting in my mouth. Angel’s chicken was moist and delicately spiced without the harissa being overpowering. Our only criticism of the dish would be the amount of potatoes. Her plate was piled high. For many this might not be a problem I am sure, but she felt it was a little off putting.
There are two choices for dessert. We ordered one of each so we could try both. And why not eh? The first being the prettiest of desserts. The rich chocolate, orange and cardamon cake with sour yoghurt being adorned with rose petals was picture perfect in my eyes. Anyone who knows me well will know I adore rose flavoured, rose scented or rose adorned anything. The second dessert was equally delicious but in a completely different way. The creamy orange water rice pudding served chilled with slow cooked cinnamon figs, apricots, sultanas was an eye opener. I thought it might be a little bland but it was completely delicious. I would highly recommend this dish. In fact I would steer you towards that over the chocolate cake if you were my lunch guest, although I have a feeling Angel might not agree. I completely understand that rice pudding might not be for everyone. Me included up until a year or so ago. Childhood school dinners put me off for years, but my friend Serena’s more recent attempts have turned my head. Thank you for that Serena.
Simon returned to serve us with rose mint tea and sweet, sticky baklawa to finish our festive feast. Our meal was a delight from start to finish with the service matching that. My advice to you would be go hungry. There is a lot of food on offer. In fact we asked for the remainder of our desserts and baklawa to be boxed up to take away. I hate waste and was happy that Simon agreed.
You will find Comptoir Libanais at Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter, EX4 3HP. Telephone: 01392 249588
Disclaimer: I was asked by Comptoir Libanais to pop in and review their Festive Feast menu. I was not paid to write the post and all views are my own as always.
Photos by the talented Angel Wade.