We try this quirky Beiruti café chain in Festival City Discuss this article
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Leil Nhar means ‘night and day’ in Arabic, a fact that explains much of its quirky, cartoony imagery. Everywhere you look, from the menu and the walls to the bill, suns rise and moons set over the cutely scrawled and irregularly shaped houses of Beirut’s neighbourhoods. The light-hearted illustration runs as a leitmotif through everything at this light, bright and spacious café, setting a tone that is young, fresh and casual.
Having said that, the menu itself, ironically, isn’t particularly Lebanese-centric. Sure, you’ll find falafel, saj and fattoush here – nestled between pizza, jacket potatoes and Greek salads. Guided by the waiter, I decided to stick to the originals and ordered a fattoush salad to start, followed by the shawarma. Both were reasonably priced, and arrived exceedingly promptly.
The fattoush was a fairly generous bowlful of romaine lettuce, herbs, cucumber, radish and tomato, with a little raw onion and the necessary pieces of crispy bread. Yet instead of the crispy wafer-thin shards of pitta I’d been expecting, the quantity of bread appeared to be minimal, because the small pieces were sizeable cigar-like rounds of tightly rolled bread. They were crispy, yes, but I didn’t feel the texture worked as well as the lighter, crispier variations. The salad itself, however, was light and fresh, with plenty of aromatic flavour coming from the mint and parsley leaves within the mix, while the thick dressing had a nice biting sourness, and a dense, caramelly molasses sweetness in the background.
The shawarma was ready so quickly that the waiter considerately told me to inform him when I was ready for it, although not wanting it to go cold, I moved on to this plate straight away. The bread itself was warm and soft, with a touch of sweetness. The filling had a pleasant range of sourness from the pickles, freshness from the parsley and tomato, with a rich creamy thread of tahini to tie it together. Sadly, this pleasing blend was undermined by the meat, which instead of the usual melt-in-the-mouth, wafer-thin slices consisted of matchstick-thin chunks of tough, chewy beef.
Despite my shawarma letdown, service here is swift and efficient and the menu is simple, straightforward and affordable, making it a pleasant mid-shopping pit stop.By Penelope Walsh
Time Out Dubai,
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