I had such high hopes after stumbling across this restaurant on Tripadvisor. I hardly ever venture the other side of the Maltings shopping centre so I didn't realise that we had a Lebanese restaurant until finding it on the restaurant listing in St Albans. However, if there was one word I could use to sum up my experience of eating here on a Saturday night in April I would use "disappointed".
On arriving at the restaurant we were welcomed by a member of staff who promptly offered us a choice of seats. The restaurant appears more cafe-like, however this isn't a major problem. There were a few other tables in and they looked like they were enjoying themselves. I noticed that the restaurant was a bit chilly though - some of the other diners hadn't taken scarves and coats off! It wasn't that bad though - just not pleasant-warm, if that makes sense. They could do with turning some of their heaters on to take the 'edge' out the air. There were heaters, not sure why they weren't on - or maybe they aren't working.
The menus were quickly passed to us and both my partner and I were disappointed that they weren't that varied - it was quite samey. We ordered starters of Falafal and my other half ordered something else. The Falafal was nice. There was a long break between starters and main courses - longer than there should be. For mains I had a traditional spicy lamb dish with a salad (chips was the alternative option but I was trying to be healthy!) and side of rice with vermicielli. The lamb was overcooked and cut into tiny little pieces so looked really odd and not presented in the best way - but I can overlook presentation - but it ended up being quite tough and it didn't taste of much. The salad was dressed but I wasn't keen on the dressing so couldn't eat much of it as it didn't go with the other flavours in my opinion, but the rice was cooked well and was the best bit. I wish I'd ordered kebab and chips to be honest and played it safe! My other half had aubergine stuffed with mince meat which was drowned in a tomato sauce - the taste was quite bland and it was concluded that it would be better as a starter in a smaller portion. He wasn't that enthusiastic about it. We didn't see the set menu until after we had ordered - it was on a stand on the table rather than being in the menu - perhaps we would have had a better time if we'd gone for this like some other tables. I would recommend to the restaurant that they put this in the menu as I think we would have had a better meal if we had little bits of things. Also, the pictures on their facebook site weren't representative of the menu. The mozzerella salad looks nice but not on the small menu! Perhaps you could also add a specials board with more authentic choices, or encourage a set menu / tapas style to try some different things - we visited to try some authentic Lebanese food but it didn't feel that well thought through. For dessert we ordered coffee, baklava and a traditional tapioca and cheese dessert. The Tapioca and cheese dessert was different and I'm glad we tried it but I'm not sure I'd have it again, and whilst my baklava was ok - it wasn't the best I'd ever tasted and it came out of the fridge display so could have done with ten minutes at room temperature. The coffee was nice however.
I also visited the ladies toilets whilst visiting and whilst not a major part of the experience I feel that it is relevant as it adds the finishing touch to a nice meal out. Unfortunately, whilst they were clean, when I walked in the dryer was constantly switched 'on' so there was no automatic turn off - it was still going, trying to dry nothing in paticular when I emerged from the cubicle as it was when I walked in. Therefore I had to switch it off at the wall to get it to turn off. Also, there were big signs on the two toilet doors saying 'Please put all toilet paper in the bin provided rather than down the toilet'. Maybe they have got dodgy plumbing - but I have never seen this in the UK, maybe on holiday in Greece or Cyprus, but not in St Albans! One of the toilets didn't even have the large bin that the sign said that was provided. All really odd. Lastly the taps washed everything but my hands, so when I put my hands under them the water went everywhere, all down my top and arms - I got soaked. Lovely.
Overall, I doubt we will be back as there was not one part of the meal that I wasn't disappointed with - and I haven't visited another restaurant that I have thought that in a long time. My Falafal was probably the best bit - but I've tasted better. The meal was 'ok' but tinged with disappointment. I REALLY want to support local restaurants but I just didn't feel that this place had good enough food to warrant us choosing to come here over some of the other excellent restaurants locally. I guess the nearest equivalents are Greek/Turkish restaurants - and Bar Meze another independent restaurant locally is in a whole different league altogether.
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