*Please note that this was written before I turned vegan*
Hummus where the heart is. Amirite?
I embarked on my once-a-year trip to Oxford Circus last week to
finish start my Christmas shopping and while I was there, I found a whole new reason to visit the area more regularly; Aline of Lebanon.
Tucked away just one road back from Regent Street, you wouldn’t necessarily find this place unless you were looking for it and that makes it a tranquil little haven, away from the busy crowds but just close enough to still have a little buzz about it.
As soon as you step inside, the smell of fresh spices, the sound of traditional Lebanese music and the beautifully intricate and colourful artwork will transport you straight to Beirut.
We were greeted with a welcoming smile and open arms as we were seated at our adorable little table. The cute neon sign at the bar also caught my attention – I’m a sucker for a little bit of neon.
First to enter the arena was the Crostini Za’atar and Labneh. This was heavenly. I would describe the taste and texture as a mixture of cream cheese and yogurt with a squirt of lemon. Paired with the crunchy sesame and thyme crackers, this was the perfect start to the meal.
If anyone is going to do hummus well, its going to be a Lebanese restaurant. It. Did. Not. Disappoint. This was probably the most ‘moreish’ dish of the evening. It was so incredibly creamy and the little hints of parsley and various spices on top gave it an extra boost of flavour and a bit of a kick.
You just cannot go wrong with a Baba Gannouj dish and this was certainly no exception. Simple food done well: An aubergine dip, topped with pomegranate seeds. This had a smokey flavour and a really nice crunch to it. The squeeze of fresh lime was a nice touch too.
Next up, we welcomed the vine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, tomato, onion & sumac. These had a beautiful taste and were a mixture of sweet and sour. There is a hint of both cinnamon and cumin and those deep flavours will linger in your mouth before you are hit with the sweet crunch and juice of the pomegranate. Fabulous.
Next up, came the Fattoush: Mixed herbs, tomato, cucumber, onion, toasted pita, sumac and pomegranate vinaigrette. The crunch of the pita chips and the pomegranate seeds mixed with the freshness of the cucumber, onion and tomato was perfect. This is a great little side dish to accompany your meal.
Just gimme all the tabbouleh, forever. Honestly, it baffles me that I’m not a big parsley fan yet for some strange and utterly inexplicable reason, I LOVE tabbouleh. This had that freshness that the dish relies on as well as some really punchy, bold flavours.
God, I love a potato. Who doesn’t? The Batata Harrah (Spicy potatoes with red pepper, coriander and garlic) are the Lebanese equivalent of patatas bravas, which I love, but I found that without that thick, creamy Spanish sauce, the dish becomes a lot lighter and you can really pick out the flavour from those chillies. I couldn’t stop eating them.
See those little fried balls on the green plate? They’re the Pumpkin Kibbeh – Pumpkin and Burghul balls stuffed with onion and pine nuts. These were pretty nice but not my favourite dish of the whole meal. With all of the flavours going on in the other dishes, this one failed to compete on the same level.
Next up was, hands down, my favourite dish of the night: The Cauliflower Shawarma. These are soft, perfectly fried little balls of cauliflower. The texture of the cauliflower is what really sets this off for me as it gives the dish the right moisture. There are also just enough breadcrumbs, there’s the signature sweetness from the pomegranate and the addition of the tahini dipping sauce totally completes this plate.
You all know what these little gems are, I’m sure! This is Aline’s Falafel. These were nice but compared to the cauliflower bites, there was no competition. They were beautifully flavoured by chickpeas, broad beans, coriander and a mix of spices but perhaps a little too dry for my liking.
Deep breath…. and we’re straight onto dessert!
We tucked into almond, pistachio & pine Kernel packed Baklawa, Mouhalabieh (a Lebanese milk pudding topped with pistachios) and Mastic Loukoum which is similar to Turkish delight, but smashed between two tea biscuits to create a heavenly sandwich. The winner here for me was the Mastic Loukoum as I found the Baklawa a little heavy and the Mouhalabieh wasn’t quiiiiiite the right fit for my tastebuds.
Flavour, flavour and eeeeeven more flavour. That’s what I took away from my recent trip to Aline’s of Lebanon. A perfect little spot to tuck into some traditional Lebanese food which is made with care and served with love!
– Crostini Za’atar and Labneh
– Baba Gannouj
– Batata Harrah
– Cauliflower Shawarma
– Mastic Loukoum