With Westgate Oxford all shiny and new, we’ve had our hands (and bellies) full trying out the new restaurants. We’ve already told you our thoughts on Sticks N Sushi, but what about Comptoir Libanais? That beacon of bright colours sat front and centre at the opening to the new shopping centre.
Arriving for lunch two days after opening, Becca and I met the restaurant chain’s founder, Tony Kitous, who was full of passion for the food and excitement for the venue. The restaurant itself was buzzing with people and atmosphere. The colourful Middle Eastern design mixed with a souk-style selection of ingredients, jugs, pans and tagines for sale, making for a never-ending feast for the eyes. Many of the pictures on the wall are actually Tony’s family members, with his Mum taking pride of place overlooking the restaurant entrance and counter.
Seated with us at a beautiful copper-topped table by the main window, Tony chatted about his interest in using Comptoir Libanais to make Lebanese food as popular as Italian and to introduce the sociable element of the food to more people. Eager to share his menu with us, Tony began by directing his staff to bring us a selection of freshly flavoured lemonades – apple, mint & ginger being our favourite, closely followed by pomegranate & orange blossom, then lemon & lime and lemon & lime with rose syrup (£2.90 for regular, £3.35 for large).
Just as the food started arriving and after Tony had left us to sample the flavours, Becca got a call and had to run off for an emergency. So there I was sat on my own, as plate after plate of food began arriving, looking like one hell of a greedy loner. At final count, the plate count reached twelve, but I’d pretty much lost count at this point and was focussed on fitting everything on the groaning table.
Tony had right to be proud of his food though, everything was beautifully presented and there wasn’t a single dish that didn’t look and smell appetising.
The baba ganuj (£5.50) was excellent, and definitely one of the stars of the show, rich and creamy with ample aubergine. Along with that came Lebanese hommos (£4.95), silky smooth and served with a superb pita bread that was light and agile for mopping everything up. Fattoush (£5.25) and Freekeh (£4.50) followed, along with marinated jawaneh (£5.50) – deliciously chargrilled chicken wings spiked with garlic, lemon & sticky pomegranate molasses – another star dish.