Middle Eastern flavours at Lebanese House
Tapas restaurant, El Sabio, closed with a round of disappointment echoed across Newbury in the summer. The Weavers Walk restaurant was a popular choice for families and couples to get a taste of the med in Berkshire.
And while there were fears that El Sabio's retreat back down the A34 to Winchester would mean there would be another vacant unit in the centre of Newbury, those fears were quickly taken away with the opening of Lebanese House.
There was an upbeat vibe when we walked through the doors of Lebanese House. The room was filled with exotic smells, sounds and the buzz of a Friday night and groups taking themselves away from the January drizzle.
Although the rain was just a window pane away, the atmosphere and food that this place produces takes you hundreds of miles away with a selection of unique dishes that you would struggle to find anywhere else in Newbury.
Authentic items on the menu include; Grilled aubergine puree mixed with sesame paste and lemon juice that are topped with pomegranate. Other dishes such as fried Cypriot cheese as well as lamb served with rice, yoghurt and nuts are also offered.
As much as those dishes tickled our fancy, we opted for a traditional humus that came with copious amounts of flat bread. There was also a side of chicken livers for us to get our jaws around. While the humus took me back to some burnt beach days on the sunny shores of Tel Aviv, the chicken livers seemed to be swimming in a watery gravy and were a chili or two away from giving it any flavour.
Ripping our way through that delicious flat bread until there was no more, we were ready to sample our main courses. Theses were a healthy serving of Lebanese biryani, which is a spicy chicken dish served seasoned rice, and a mixed grill that was made up of some of the most tender pieces of meat I had ever tasted.
From both the large chicken and lamb cubes to the lamb mince kebab as well as fresh salad and more of that lovely bread; this meal was a world away from the widely held concept that the mixed grill is the last post for cheap and close to out of date meat. Without sounding a bit like I had had some sort of weird lust for this dish, I did actually go a bit Charlie Bucket and take the smallest pieces of meat to make it last as long possible.
For two hours Lebanese House provided a welcome relief to the January blues, serving unique and fresh food in a corner of Newbury that we all need to get behind and one where we definitely be returning to.