At the rebirth of Westgate Oxford, Daily Info were lucky enough to attend a mighty feast at the newly opened Lebanese canteen, Comptoir Libanais.
The first thing you notice is the explosion of colour that encompasses the bright interior, modelled around a Lebanese market place. The entrance is a hive of activity that for an opening day bordered on chaotic. But once you get firmly into the restaurant the atmosphere calms with the hustle and bustle replaced with a more relaxing mood. This was aided by the sumptuous food that was brought to our table.
Comptoir Libanais is built up around the idea of sharing food (not one for the Joeys of the world) and the hot mezze food, thankfully, is good enough that you will order too much for one person, and generosity becomes a necessity. Highlights included the marinated Jaweneh, which were delicious, juicy chicken wings with a mouth watering sauce. The ever popular halloumi makes several appearances on the menu: halloumi & tomato is a tasty item, even if I could have eaten the halloumi slices on their own. Finally the lamb kibbeh were tasty, holding their form without proving too dense. I'd also recommend the mezze platter, which comes with all the hummus, halloumi and pita bread any group could want.
For the mains I tried only two dishes, having somewhat overfilled on the mezze items. The mixed grill stood out with its trio of meats (lamb, and two kinds of chicken) cooked perfectly and exceptionally tasty. The rice was also perfectly cooked and I would gladly have eaten all of this meal, as opposed to sharing it. The other stand out item was the chicken & green olive tagine, which was less a cacophony of well-grilled meat and more a flavoursome stew and a hearty main course. There is certainly much to explore in the menu and it cries out for another visit. Due to the excessive amounts of food I only had a brief taste of our dessert, but it was a very nice, traditional Lebanese pastry. The best way to approach this restaurant is to strategise carefully and leave room for all three courses.
We tried a trio of homemade lemonades on our visit. The toufaha (apple, mint and ginger) was packed with flavour but one that you need to drink slowly, the ginger packing a kick. The roza (lemon & lime with rose syrup) was more to my tastes, a fun twist on a traditional lemonade. However the roomana proved my favourite with the pomegranate and orange blossom blending deliciously.
The food at Comptoir Libanais is bountiful and perfect for sharing. I was particularly taken with their hot mezze selection and I would definitely return to the restaurant. Just maybe once the hustle and bustle of their opening has calmed down.