In a bid to escape the extremely chilly weather (of course I managed to book our date night Sky Garden trip for one of the coldest evenings), Alex and I headed up Commercial Street to find a welcoming, warm and cosy place to eat, finally piling into Zengi.
With our toes, noses and fingers slowly defrosting, we settled into a comfy cushioned corner seat in the little Lebanese restaurant. Not very busy for a Saturday night, I wondered who else had been more tempted by the option of staying in with fluffy blankets, hot water bottles and a takeaway!
As you can’t go to a Lebanese restaurant without ordering hummus and bread, this was our first port of call. Enjoyed alongside a small dish of olives and a bottle of house red, which was relatively easy drinking, but left that funny bitter after taste in the mouth (you can tell I won’t be a master of wine anytime soon!), the soft warm flatbread dipped into the thick hummus, which had a coating of oil and sprinkling of paprika, definitely satisfied my cravings.
The rest of the menu featured further options for cold and hot mezzah, including Shakshouka, Tabbouleh and Kibbeh, myself only just resisting the urge to order the halloumi (my favourite type of cheese by far). The mains offering was just as varied with plenty of traditional Lebanese and Turkish dishes such as Shish Lamb, Moujadra and Chicken Tagine.
The meat on both the Zengi Mixed Grill (chicken, lamb & kofte) and Ali-Nazik Shish (marinated pieces of meat layered with aubergine & yogurt), the mains we decided upon, was of mixed quality, but marinated well, almost making up for the slightly fattier pieces. Served alongside a crunchy salad of red cabbage and shredded carrot, and fragrant yellow rice, you can’t fault the dishes for being colourful, and the mix of textures and flavours worked well.
The standout part for us was the kofte meat which was full of herbs and flavour – delicious with a drizzle of chilli sauce and mint yoghurt which was set on the table by the waiter alongside the dishes.
The front of house team was pretty attentive, although not as chatty or friendly as other restaurants we’d dined at recently. In between appearing bored at how quiet it was, they were pretty efficient with delivering courses, clearing mains and settling bills before waving goodbye to guests, and we were no exception.
The bill came to roughly £55 for the starter, mains, bottle of wine and service which isn’t too bad.
Overall, Zengi, our cosy and warm escape from the harsh winter weather, was a pretty good choice. I’d probably chose a different main next time, but this visit definitely satisfied my Lebanese craving for now (it’s making me hungry thinking about that hummus and bread). We didn’t book either, and they had plenty of tables vacant that Saturday evening, so if Lebanese doesn’t make the top of your ‘to try’ list, it’s one for the back-up list for all those occasions when everywhere is just too busy.
Where have you been recently?