On a recent trip to London I fell in love with falafel. There’s a world of difference between a freshly made and a store bought, and those we ate at Comptoir Libanais were knocked up in front of us in their colourful kitchen. It may be part of a chain of restaurant, but it felt as if we were transported into a souk kitchen. Full of bustle, the team were serving up simple plates of hummus, flatbreads and mezze to the hungry South Kensington hoards. There were queues out of the door for a table, although the rain may have helped in that department. The food was simple and tasty, and the only bugbear was the very limited vegan options available. Mr. Canny couldn’t even sample the bread as it contained milk. Their website thoughtfully has one of those dietary filters, should you want to give it a try at one of their other locations.
After sampling the food here we decided to make a more concerted effort to try out more food from the Eastern Mediterranean, which led me to suggesting we visit Red Mezze for their £7.45 lunchtime offer. This is available every day until 4pm, even Sunday.
I have been before, but in the meat-eating days. I seem to recall enjoying a Chicken Shish, which was served with rice and salad. Like Al Baik, there is a pretty extensive menu here to choose from, but we were ordering from ‘the highlights’.
With a choice of 2 mezze each, we decided to share all four. The majority were vegan-friendly, with only two mentioning dairy in their descriptions. Mr. Canny was especially keen to try the Yaprak Sarma – vine leaves stuffed with sultanas and rice.
The mezze came cold, which I thought was strange with dishes like Saksuka ( potatoes & aubergine) and Zeytinyagli Fasulye (green beans). The lunch menu we were given didn’t mention these were served as is, but I probably should have realised this myself. Mr. Canny was unable to enjoy these with the lovely warm flatbread as it was made with milk. Through this line of questioning we also discovered, disappointingly, they purchase in their bread. He was offered salad instead, but this doesn’t mop up Hummus quite in the same way.These mezze were nice, if a little lacking in the flavour department. We also had to ask about the beers and wines suitable for veggies. There was no clue about this, although our waiter admitted he’d been asked this before. Barnivorve wasn’t turning any up any suggestions, so I Googled Efes and found out it was a-ok.
The mains were far more impressive, with Mr. Canny’s Falafel so enjoyable he ordered a second plate! With a well-dressed salad and hummus, I was surprised he had space for another round, but sure enough he sharp asked for my help to polish the lot off. With a crisp shell and smooth chickpea interior, they were very similar to those we’d enjoyed at Comptoir Libanese.
My Vegetarian Moussaka was nice, although there was a floury tinge to the cheese sauce used to top the layers of vegetables. I also found the tomato sauce very oily. It was very filling, although I couldn’t resist trying out the complimentary Kemalpasa that arrived with our bill. These semolina dough balls drenched in syrup weren’t suitable for the Mr. thanks to the aerosol cream and chocolate sauce covering them, so I had to plough through them on my own. They were tooth-achingly sweet but pleasant enough.He ordered a traditional coffee instead, which came with a side of Turkish Delight. The staff were unsure of whether it was made with gelatin, which meant we both had to leave them.
We were rolling by the time we left Red Mezze and felt we’d had an enjoyable meal. Our disappointments came from the lack of knowledge in relation to the food they were serving up. If they purchase in they should make sure they know what it contains, especially when it comes to allergens. It could lead to a very serious problem otherwise.
The staff were friendly enough, and were apologetic that they had no idea initially about what was suitable for vegans. It was good value for money, however, with our total bill (including drinks) at just over £30.
Thanks for reading,