Al Diwan really comes alive at 11pm when the music begins. The belly dancer arrives at midnight and the singer comes on stage at 1.30am 1 Reviews
We arrived long before the entertainment began, but genuinely enjoyed eating our meal to the gentle gurgling of a lone sheisha pipe. It lent as much ambience and a lot less noise to the experience as a string of belly dancers and singers. Al Diwan is a simple sand-coloured restaurant with pillars, arches and a select few paintings on the walls. All the attention is focussed on the stage, with the tables arranged accordingly. We sat in the small raised section under the terracotta-tiled overhang at the back of the restaurant.
Our waiter was ready to assist us in our selection of dishes, but we ordered our usual favourites. The menu included a few non-traditional items like smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail, caviar and veal with mushrooms (presumably these dishes go down well with a dose of belly dancing or they wouldn’t be there). The salad platter, pickles and olives arrived within minutes of us sitting down, and some Arabic bread too. But we really missed having hot bread, fresh from the sage (Arabic bread oven).
The mezze arrived: some in white china and some in the familiar brown melamine mezze bowls. The hummus was quite soft and mild in flavour. The tabbouleh (flat-leafed parsley and bulgar wheat salad) was vibrant in colour and taste. Fattoush – (a dressed mixed salad with sumac and topped with crispy Arabic bread) was tangy and crunchy, a great example of this classic dish. The little hot, deep fried pastries were rather oily and soft. Next we moved onto grilled chicken kebab with coriander and Lebanese pepper and looked forward to the grilled potato and garlic bread that the menu promised. It was disappointing when, after a long wait, it arrived with a pile of chips and we were told that grilled potatoes take too long to cook.
We ended with a bowl of Mouhalabia (a simple milk and rice pudding). We have had many tastes of this and Al Diwan came up with the best on our tour. Served slightly warm and topped with the obligatory nuts (and a few sultanas too) this was light and had a delicate but definite flavour. Many chefs seem to attempt to compensate for a very bland taste by using over powering fragrances with the dessert.
Al Diwan really comes alive at 11pm when the music begins. The belly dancer arrives at midnight and the singer comes on stage at 1.30am. For good food and very traditional entertainment pay a visit to Al Diwan.By Carolyn Robb
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