You can always judge a place by its loo. From Numara Bos Cirrik’s shall-we-say homely charms to Dishoom’s mirror-riddled and quirky conveniences, the little boys and girls’ room says more about a place than anything else, and I always make sure I take a look. So what kind of place is Comptoir Libanais?
Well, I guess judging by this guy who oversees the gents it’s bright, bold and fun, and it’s hard to get their attention? Or something. We pleaded with four different waiters for our mint tea on a recent Saturday stopover and generally felt a bit unloved as we were consistently brought the wrong things at the wrong times. But hey, it was a busy weekend in a bustling café and why start with the negatives?
There’s lots to love about Comptoir Libanais. The Marylebone outpost of the Lebanese fast food chain is a bursting rainbow of coloured baskets, kitsch design and imported knick-knacks. We found a spot on a high table between some strangers and a load of Algerian Coke bottles, pulled some cutlery from a recycled harissa can and got stuck in. All the Oxford Street masochists that know to switch lanes at lunchtime and head here instead of the high street were ordering wraps so we took a few of those (generously filled, toasted to tarmac and saucey as hell) alongside some dips (aubergine paste the pick of the bunch) and a bowl of chicken cous cous.
While the chicken wasn’t far removed from its sliced M&S cousin, carrots, peppers and courgettes were all fine. Its ceramic bowl was chipped all over and, as I tried not to notice too much, still sticky with the previous diner’s food remnants and napkin remains. Ginger spiced baclava was a nice surprise with the bill and made me think maybe they did care about us after all.
Soundtrack: Mass chirruping and the constant rustle of department store bags
Clientele: Savvy shoppers