The concept of a shopping centre is, for a lot of us a bit of a nightmare. All those people in your way, no point of refuge, just hours on your feet trundling along in hope of finding what you are looking for. Well it came as a surprise that Stratford Westfield Shopping City (yes it is a bit of a city) has many places to rest your bones and have a bite to eat at the same time. There are plenty of restaurants offering easily portable snacks and the sort of thing you’d experience as street food in hotter climates. We were feeling peckish and needed a spot of lunch and although it is possible to sit down and have a three course meal with a table cloth etc. in Westfield we decided to move completely out of the family comfort zone and try Comptoir Libanais, which means Lebanese Counter. It is a Middle Eastern canteen come café that offers simple and healthy food very reasonably priced and served quickly. It would be wrong to call it a fast food restaurant, as it is so much more than that. The array of dishes on offer is quite stunning and you can see it all being prepared, as the kitchen is open.
As the foodie of the family it was down to me to guide us through the best course(s) of action. Well I don’t mind admitting here and now that I know very little about food from this region (to my shame!) it was a good chance to find out some more. So with a very cautious 6 year-old, an interested 12 year-old and a very hungry wife by my side I began to order. I thought that a Mezze and dips would help us on our way. There was Tabbouleh, a salad of chopped parsley, tomatoes, mint and spring onion, which was lovely and fresh, Falafels, with coriander, garlic, dill and chickpea. Hommos, that smooth rich puree of chickpea, tahina and lemon juice and my favourite Baba Ghanuj, which is smoked aubergine, tahina, lemon juice and pomegranate seeds. This was great and lasted no time at all. I kept on doing a double take as my 6 year old (who had professed to being starving only 10 minutes ago) sat there and said I’m not hungry as he shoved pita bread drenched in Hommos into his mouth. Funny thing about children is they often don’t realize what they are doing. I smiled. Then we moved onto some Wraps. We decided (well I did) that we should try different ones so our 6 year-old ended up with a Lamb Kofta, which he only let others have a taste of when he thought all the lamb had been extracted! A Halloumi and Olive wrap which is a great veggie choice as it was spicy, salty and really quite grown up. Chicken Taouk was the one I like the most. It had slices of marinated chicken breast, tomato, pickled cucumber and garlic sauce. It is worth mentioning that these all arrived with another salad and some more dips.
So as an experimental lunch this was going well. The drinks on this occasion were Fresh Lemonades, think Sicilian and still not R Whites and fizzy. The flavours were certainly not supermarket. How about Roomana – pomegranate and orange blossom or Roza – rosewater lemon and lime? These were sublime (forgive my use of integral menu fruit!) to say the least. Very refreshing and satisfying without being sugary or false, I really recommend them. So as the session came to a close I started to ask the kids what they thought. Firstly they wanted pudding!
So we had a selection of Baklawa full of cashew nuts, layered filo pastry and honey and well lots of finger licking goodness. So my question again to the kids, what did you think of that as a new type of food? They slowly nodded and said yes they liked it, but were not quite sure which bit they liked the most, but as I looked at the nearly empty plates they really wasn’t any need for the answer.
So, as a novices in this field of food we felt confident enough to return and maybe try some of the other dishes like a Tagine of lamb and prunes or salad of cumin roasted vegetables and grilled chicken or maybe pop in for breakfast? The cost was, I would say no more than a fast food burger joint but much tastier and far more interesting.
Comptoir Libanais is a bit like Westfield in that it has much to offer and requires more than one visit to get the most out of it. So do give it a try with your kids, mine didn’t like everything but what they did like they really liked.
Stratford Westfield Shopping Centre
Tel: 020 8555 6999