There’s something slightly distasteful about the Automatic’s green and white gingham approach to marketing, but don’t let this put you off. This local chain is almost as old as the city itself and has become an institution. Their approach is winningly simple – solid if unspectacular Lebanese food at good prices in clean and spacious family restaurants.
At this simply-furnished branch, thankfully gingham-free, the staff are exceptionally polite, especially one suited waiter who served with regal charm. On my visit, the room was full of families – a couple of high stools for babies leaned against the wall – and local residents, who busily devoured items from a packed, eclectic and unspellchecked menu. This list made for an enjoyable read, with dishes including ‘tongs salad’ and ‘smoked salamon’, whilst the ‘birds’ section boasted a ‘fried chicken pane’. Other highlights included the ‘initalian steak with cheese, potatoe, vegetablles’.
Dhs17 of my budget went on lamb meat with tomato, onions and rice, and I scoffed olives and pickles until its arrival. The lamb mince was supplemented by hordes of crunchy pine nuts and saturated in a rich tomato sauce, and the quality of the accompanying rice substantiated their motto – ‘we believe in healthy food’. The undoubted star of the show, however, was a wizard’s hat-shaped portion of warm, fluffy, comforting, burnt-to-taste Lebanese bread – absolutely perfect. My remaining three dirhams went on a soft drink. The Automatic is a solid bet for wallet-friendly Lebanese food.