Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Who Said Romance was Dead?

Whoever said that C and A are not romantic?  Not us.  Our 'romantic' dinner date (the first in a while) turned out to be somewhat unorthodox.  As it happened, we had quite a lot to celebrate; C had just won a big new contract and A had discovered that he wasn't quite as incompetent at his job as he had previously thought.

The plan was simple: go into the West End, have a nice dinner in a stylish establishment, meander around the docklands and head home.  We failed at all four.

Having struggled to come to an agreement on a type of cuisine, and A refusing the usual fallback of Italian, we ended up with our second fallback option and mutual fave, Middle Eastern.  After a not insignificant detour and blisters all round, we found ourselves dining off formica at Al Arez on the Edgware Road. As a brief aside, the gaudy website bears testimony to the decor, but not the quality of the food. It was all quite eventful: firstly A, who is often taken as having Middle Eastern heritage, was handed the Ramadan timetable (which he does not need) when he asked for the menu.  Then, the meal was unexpectedly interrupted by the Libyan Olympic Team Leader (proudly displaying his Official Lanyard), who had a loud altercation with the owner of the restaurant concerning the number of seats he felt appropriate for a man of his importance (in essence, he wanted an extra seat for his ego, times three).

Ramadan confusion finally cleared up
Nonetheless, the food itself was excellent - dare we say some of the best Lebanese we've had in a while. Our mezze was varied and flavoursome, with particular highlights including the baba ganoush, the lamb samboussek and the falafel, which A wolfed down after C had eaten her fill (the old problem of eyes and stomachs came up).  A also introduced C to labneh, a kind of curdled yoghurt spiced with sumac, herbs and olive oil, peculiar to Palestine, Israel and Lebanon - an unusual taste but incredibly moreish. If there was a down side (apart from the display of Libyan-Lebanese diplomatic relations), it was that there was rather too much olive oil on everything.  After finishing our mains, we were getting ready to leave when we were gifted a plate of baklava.  We like to think this is customary, but suspect it might have been on account of the Libyans. It was a nice touch all the same.  All in all though, Al Arez is a sound choice if you're on the Edgware Road and after somewhere authentic and pleasingly affordable. Too much food and a round of non-alcoholic drinks came in at £15 a head.

From Libya with love

Pity that the romantic dinner went down the tubes.


(We also apologise for the quality of the photos - it wasn't quite the sort of place to pull out the SLR)

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