25/F, 239 Hennessy Road, Wanchai / www.zahrabel.com
The concept: We were introduced to their dining club philosophy, which basically means their diners sign up, make a reservation, and then dine for hours on the family recipes made fresh on the day, just as one would in Lebanon.
The décor: Stylishly authentic with romantic, Arabian lighting and comfortable chairs. Middle Eastern music plays softly in the background setting the scene for conversation, which is consistently present as a dim chatter in the background as groups savour their meals and each others company.
The menu: Split into three different sharing menu options of 6 ($380 only from Tuesday to Thursday), 8 ($460 with 20 per cent off on Tuesdays) or 10 ($520) courses from a mixture of their hot and cold mezze selection, they also offer a la carte options from Tuesday to Thursdays for a quicker meal.
We started with an array of hot starters, cold dips and salads with a tangy hummus, creamy babaganouj loaded with freshly grilled aubergines, and the house specialty, Jos Mahrouse, made with mixed spicy nuts and a real highlight of the simple and tasty flavours that come out of this kitchen. The fattayer pastry parcels with spinach and pine nuts were a flavoursome bundle while the minced lamb skewers were delicately seasoned bites that meshed exceptionally well with the crispy fatoush salad. All the dishes come served with plenty of warm pitta bread to scoop up the dips and mash the zesty flavours together.
We were given a thoughtful breather between courses to digest and enjoy the Chateau Musar Hochar wine of Bekaa Valley, a rich, pleasant red that paired well with everything we ate. Then, we were suitably ready when the “Elmina” arrived with its succulent chicken chunks coated in a minty sauce and the “Samke Harra” a melt-in-your-mouth fish dish with a fiery sauce that lit up the taste buds.
The desserts: Different every day, we were lucky enough to tuck into baklava on our visit with its crispy, syrupy top and flaky layers of golden pastry followed by a hot cup of Lebanese coffee and the perfect finisher to an exceptional meal.
The verdict: We loved everything about this atmospheric, welcoming restaurant that cares about filling its patrons with great food and warmth in a way that is hard to find in this city.