Walking past the Cedar Restaurant in Albert Road, Southsea, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it was just another kebab shop.
For the exterior doesn’t stand out next to the popular Wine Vaults and opposite the Kings Theatre.
However once you step inside, it’s as if you have been transported to a Lebanese market stall where you can smell an array of spices which will soon get your stomach rumbling.
The nine-month-old establishment is fairly busy for a mere Wednesday evening so your Dish Detective is glad they had booked.
Once we’re settled, the welcoming waiter hands over the wooden-clad menus which match the interior – a nice touch.
The menu traditionally consists of meat dishes, with only salads available for vegetarians. It isn’t an extensive selection so it doesn’t take us long to whittle down our starters and main courses.
To start, we opted for the hummus (£4), which came with flatbread, from the cold mezza section to share. As we were ravenous, we also went for the kibbeh (£4.50), which is four deep fried lamb meat balls filled with minced meat and onion, and arayes (£4), which is baked Lebanese pastry filled with seasoned minced lamb, onion and parsley.
It’s less than 10 minutes before our starters were placed in front of us and I instantly think my eyes are too big for my belly. The portions were huge.
The kibbeh was delicious, drizzled with tahini and served with a side salad – I could eat them all day.
The arayes were different but still tasty. As I took my first bite, it was like eating a mince pie topped with lamb because of the seasoning. As odd as it sounds, it was still delicious albeit interesting.
The hummus was also massive – it was at least double the size of a pot you would fork out for at a supermarket. We keep it on the table for the entire meal and even by the end, we haven’t finished it all.
By the time our main courses arrived, we are only halfway through our starters – our table looks like a banquet with several dishes laid out.
I chose the lamb chops served with fries and topped with parsley, which came with tahini and sweet chilli sauce (£9). My companion chose the shish taouk, which is two skewers of seasoned, charcoal-grilled chicken cubes served with garlic sauce and fries (£9).
A running theme here is that the portion sizes are unbelievably generous. On top of a huge pile of seasoned chips and salad is five lamb chops, juicy and tender. It was the same size for the shish taouk and the chicken is perfectly cooked and seasoned.
The Cedar Restaurant offers such value for money. I’m still astounded my piled-up plate of delicious food cost less than £10.
However ambitious we are to finish the food, we leave defeated with some of our dishes to take home and indulge in at a later time.
The staff are extremely attentive and accommodating, clearing away any plates and wiping the table clean after each course.
Before we scoffed such a vast amount of food, Dish Detective and said companion have their eyes on the sweet and sticky baklava (£3).
However previous events mean there was absolutely no room for such dessert. But with our cheap bill came two cubes of the delicious pastry, which are gratefully received.
Don’t let your eyes deceive you and don’t judge a restaurant by its exterior – Cedar Restaurant is great and I most definitely will be back.