Le Comptoir: 65 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1JT
Le Comptoir is a pastry-wrapped pocket of Lebanon serving up punches of flavour in five locations across London. The Wigmore Street restaurant is fresh and funky: wide wooden planks on the floor and rough, rustic tables keep the place feeling relaxed and casual, while the exotic tea-pots and gemstone braided bags (which you can buy!) provide both a talking point as well as showing you more of Lebanon than their food can.
Their food shows a lot, however. To start, a platter of hommos and pitta bread baked on the premises. Served traditionally with a pool of oil and whole chickepeas surrounded by the mashed form of the peas. The lemon and garlic came through lightly in a beautifully thick blend and, unlike many supermarket forms, there was no sweet, sticky aftertaste.
Next up, a warm chicken taouk wrap. Authentic again, served with a garlic paste, pickles and a fresh salad in a warm toasted wrap. The chicken was tender, with a slight spice while the whole wrap was bursting with a juicy yogurt and tomato sauce. There is no better feeling than scooping up the leftovers with that sweet, spicy sauce dribbling down your chin. There’s a choice of dips available: the garlic sauce packs such a punch it tastes like pure blended garlic cloves but with a sweetness that makes you want to dip everything in it. The harissa sauce is a warming chilli sauce, much thinner than the garlic sauce, but beware the hot kick as you swallow: it’s surprising and powerful!
To finish, there are many tasty treats to choose from, from yogurt with traditional Lebanese toppings to the well-known Baklawas. A selection of five baklawas varied from sweet flaky pastry stuffed with date semolina to a triangular layered pastry neatly filled with ground mixed nuts. While the taste didn’t vary widely between the walnut-filled, cashew-flavoured and other sweet delicacies, it was a great authentic touch and delicious all-round. The Comptoir frozen yogurt was very soft and unsweetened but this was lifted by a topping of halva and roasted pistachios. Halva is a nougat-type sweet made from flour or nut-butter. This one was very sweet and quite sticky but also crumbly and worked wonderfully with the pistachios both texturally and on taste.
The service was very helpful, swift and friendly and a takeaway service is also available. You can see some of the food been prepared behind the counter and lots is laid out around the restaurant, if only to make you hungrier while you wait! A definite must-visit for a chilled out sharing-meal with friends or an intimate meal to try something new. Le Comptoir is definitely “the counter” with something worth serving.