Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Labneh wa Zaatar, Deira, Dubai

Back in my murky past, I had an addiction. When I say my murky past, I mean my decadent student days in Germany. Germany was a different place back in the day; before it was invaded by budget airlines, tourists were few and foodie bargains were aplenty! I used to eat out every single day as this was cheaper than shoving something in the microwave (plus the German supermarkets are notoriously awful). Pizza was 3 euro, a curry 4 euro and my addiction was only 2 euro, sometimes 50 cents depending on the competition in the area. Yes, you guessed it. My addiction was Falafel. Now, Germany has a massive Turkish population who used to peddle Falafel, strange considering that falafel is not native to Turkey. However, if you delve closer into the snack bar scene, you will find the Turks are facing stiff competition from their Lebanese brothers! The Lebanese took my falafel addiction to the next level, as they knew how to deliver the perfect chick pea patty. Sprinkled with tabbouleh, doused in houmous or wrapped in a pitta alongside the marvellous halloumi, the Lebanese won my heart every time.
That addiction was about to be awakened with my discovery of Lebanese restaurants all over Dubai.

Lebanese food is MASSIVE here. Brits, think the blanket coverage of curry houses and Chinese restaurants in Blighty, I'm talking such a massive scale. The first Beirut bombshell I came across was the fabulous Labneh wa Zaatar in Deira, so good I can't keep out of there!

You're probably wondering what the name means. Labneh wa Zaatar is a scrumptious soft cheese (think Philadelphia mixed with yogurt) garnished with a thyme-based spice mix. This is delicious spread on pitta or as a dip with crudités. All meals, no matter how small, are served with some complimentary Labneh, pittas, mixed pickles and olives to start. (I later found out this is the norm in Dubai's Lebanese eateries- talk about fab customer service!) The cold drinks are a bargain 3dhs, or if you want to splash out, try a freshly blended fruit juice at around 16dhs. Highly recommended is the mint lemonade, a zingy, refreshing home made concoction which complements the spicy food well.

I pushed the boat out and created a monster meze for myself; stuffed vine leaves, tabouleh, a falafel sandwich and a huge vessel of Foul Medames. The vine leaves, like in most places in the middle east, were served cold. I am used to eating them warm as I like the contrast between a hot vine leaf dunked in tzatziki or hummus straight from the fridge. However, they were still scrumptious in all their herby glory. The portion size is huge here, one Tabouleh is definitely enough for two. Yum, this place is food heaven.

With its informal atmosphere, friendly staff and choice of seating areas, I would wholeheartedly recommend this cosy, chilled restaurant. If you're staying in one of the area's hotels and are bored with their faceless, overpriced restaurants, pop over to LwaZ (as those in the know call it!) where you'll be sure of a warm welcome and fabulous food.

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Hi Vindaloo Kings and Queens!