Leilamezze, Portsmouth '“Â Restaurant review
And now, as the guys at Monty Python used to rejoice in saying, for something completely different. Â
Since its introduction to The Guide more thanÂ two years ago, your intrepid Dish Detective has never set foot in a restaurant celebrating the food of a country 1980s' pop stars The Human League once sang about.
What images are conjured up by the word 'Lebanon'? For those who rememberÂ the '70s and '80s, the country was regularly on the news as capital Beirut was ravaged by war. The Lebanese Civil War raged for 15 years, until 1990, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths and the exodus of more than one million Lebanese.
In terms of food, though, how many reading this have ever asked their partner: 'Fancy a Lebanese tonight, darling?' This week's review, following a trip to Leilamezze '“ a five-minute stroll from Guildhall Square '“ aims to change that.
First things first, this isn't a place with a view,Â instead it possesses more of a cafÃ©-type feel than a standard restaurant. Second things second, they don't serve alcohol. If that puts you off, more fool you. Because Leilamezze delivered one of the tastiest meals the DD's eaten for many a year.
Variety is truly the spice of life, so for the first time in DD history a Jallub '“ a traditional Lebanese rosewater and date drink topped withÂ pine nuts '“ was ordered. Rosewater helps give Turkish Delight its distinctive taste, so imagine a liquid equivalent.
On aÂ typically autumnal night, a couple of dishes from the hot mezze western Asia tapasÂ menu was a far better idea than picking from the cold one (all mezze dishes, hot or cold, come with Lebanese flatbread).
My partner chose the Cracked Wheat Kibbah (Â£6.95) while yours truly, again veering dramatically away from usual tastes, plumped for the Homemade Falafel (Â£3.95), one of two vegetarian hot mezze dishes (all seven cold mezzes are vegetarian).Â
The falafel patties, comprisingÂ deep-fried fava beans, and the mincemeat-filled Kibbah balls were filling and tasty, their flavours enhanced by the accompanying tahini sauce made from toasted ground sesame.Â
A selection of hot or cold mezze dishes would easily satisfy a couple's hunger, but in the interests of research we also ordered from the mains section. Though burgers and fish were on offer, it would have been rude to have ignored the kebabs.Â Really rudeÂ in fact, so we didn't.
My partner went for the Lamb Shish (Â£12.95) and your DD, having not eaten for many hours in anticipation of a mighty feast, only had eyes for the Mixed Grill (Â£14.95).Â
How good was the latter? Well, as I'm typing this, I'm salivating at the memory of a large kofta kebab the length of my plate plus impressive amounts of skewered chicken and lamb. If that wasn't enough (and it was) there was an extra lamb chop as well.
It was all absolutely delicious. Cooked to perfection, the meat feast was complemented by a generous helping of chips (rice was available too), some vegetables and a healthy dollop of the lovely tahini sauce which boasted a nice kick of its own. Across the table, occasional muttered words such as 'lovely', 'beautiful' and 'plentiful' could be heard amidÂ the chomping.Â
Let's play word association again. Think 'kebab' and images of late nightÂ doners and chilli sauce splattered down one's face and clothesÂ leap to mind. But this is how 'proper' kebabs should be served, and how they should taste.
Fancy a Lebanese tonight, darling? Go on, say it to your loved one. And remember, sometimes something completely different can open up a whole new world of possibilities.
Leilamezze, St Paul's Road, Landport, Portsmouth
Tel: (023) 9217 5150
(ratings out of five)