Review: Lebaneat, North Bailey, Durham
Just off one of Durham's hilly cobbled streets is a little taste of the Middle East.
Lebaneat is on the city’s peninsula, which boasts some of the region’s most glorious and iconic views.
Sadly, the windows of this North Bailey restaurant look out onto what looks like a 1970s-built halls of residence, with big metal gates and net curtains.
Inside, however, the food served made me and my friend feel like we were hundreds of miles away, with the charcoal grill creating smells which reminded us of sunny hot holidays abroad.
Keen to put the menu to the test, I suggested the mixed hot and cold mezze starter to share (£7.20) and as we both love halloumi, ordered an extra serving (£5.95).
A platter arrived filled with dollops of hummus, baba ghanoush – grilled aubergines, tahini, olive oil and garlic – vine leaves filled with tomatoes, rice, parsley, mint, lemon and olive oil, Lebanese cream cheese topped with mint and cucumber, falafel and batata harra, a tower of potatoes mixed with peppers, chilli, garlic and coriander.
It was great to try all the different flavours, with a plate of ultra-thin flatbread served to help mop up the dishes.
We had thought about asking to forgo the vine leaves – or leaf as there was only one – as neither of us have enjoyed them before, but I thought in the name of trying out the options we should give it a go.
I’m glad I did as it was really tasty, not at all chewy with a delicate flavour and texture.
For mains there are heaps of koftas and grills to pick.
Its mixed grill comes in at a whopping £26.95, but it does sound amazing, with three lamb dishes and four of chicken served with grilled vegetables.
It also has a good few vegetarian dishes including vegetable moussaka, bamieh – okra cooked with tomato – and foul moudamas (all £11.95), boiled broad beans seasoned with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, with salad and bread.
My friend picked chicken shawarma (£11.95), a vibrant orange and pink-coloured dish, which was heavy with the scent of aromatic spices, while I had shish taouk (£14.95), chargrilled marinated chicken served with garlic sauce and grilled vegetables.
Mine sounds a bit boring, but it was packed with flavour and I really liked the vegetables, which still had a bit of bite.
The salty vermicelli rice was a great accompaniment, as were the tart and crunchy pickles.
My pal’s chicken was very tasty and she got a huge serving too.
Our bill came in at £40.95, which without drinks means it’s not the cheapest eat in the city, but having had this on my list of places to try for ages – as well as its wrap house in Claypath and sister venue in Gilesgate - I’m glad I did, adding another good restaurant to visit in the city.
Its menus also include a noon to 5pm lunch offering for those after a lunchtime Lebanese feast.