The Wokingham Paper

Veganuary: Bold Lebanese flavours for plant-based dishes

Comptoir Libanais has launched plant-based Lebanese treats for Veganuary this month. Picture: Jess Warren

Comptoir Libanais Reading, Unit R50, The Oracle, Reading, RG2 0FP.

Phone: 0118 321 3999

PACKED full of flavour, Middle Eastern food may not be the highest up on your culinary list — but it is worth a try.

The Reading branch of Comptoir Libanais has launched plant-based Lebanese treats for Veganuary this month.

With bold flavours and a relaxed dining experience — founder of the restaurant chain — Tony Kitous hopes to make Lebanese food as popular as Italian food. 

He says: “I strongly believe the food of the Middle East is the best in the world.”

Ready to try the dishes their founder is so proud of, we ordered first the iced fresh rose mint tea (£2.95) and the roza homemade lemonade (£2.95). The ice tea was delicious and thirst-quenching with the rose not overpowering the natural mint. Whereas rose flavours took centre stage in the lemonade, reminiscent of turkish delight in a drink.

The iced fresh rose mint tea and the roza homemade lemonade. Picture: Jess Warren

Dishes at Comptoir Libanais range in size, from smaller mezze dishes to larger main courses. Uncertain with how much food we would need, our waiter helped us navigate the menu to pick the perfect quantity of food. 

We chose all dishes to arrive at the same time, to emulate more of a mezze-style sharing lunch.

The baked aubergine with coriander dressing (£5.25) and the hommos with falafel and harissa sauce (£4.95) were smaller plates, perfect for sampling.

The aubergine was full of powerful flavour, helped by the marinade and cooking style. It was slightly caramelised, producing a meat-like depth of flavour.

The baked aubergine with coriander dressing. Picture: Jess Warren

The falafel was served with a spicy harissa sauce over the top — suitable for diners who enjoy hotter flavours, although the hommos balanced out the heat, providing a creamy addition to the dish. 

One of the larger dishes to arrive was the slow-cooked vegetable tagine (£11.45) which was the showstopper.

The crispy onions added crunch and texture to the dish, and the vegetables were cooked slowly and softened to perfection, allowing time to soak up every inch of flavour from the complex seasoning. Satisfying and tasty, meat-lovers wouldn’t feel short-changed with this plate.

The slow-cooked vegetable tagine. Picture: Jess Warren

Settled in the centre of the table was the selection of dips (£9.45) served with flatbread and pickles. We were served hommos and baba ghanuj, drizzled in olive oil, and garnished with chickpeas and pomegranate seeds.

The hommos with chickpeas and baba ghanuj with pomegranate seeds. Picture: Jess Warren

Both visually pleasing and tasty, the two dips accompanied everything on the table, tying the meal together.

The falafel, baked aubergine, tagine and flatbreads. Picture: Jess Warren

Finishing our meal, we sampled the orange and almond cake (£5.95) which was served with a sweet marmalade-style candied orange and a cup of hot rose mint tea (£2.45) — poured from a traditional silver teapot.

The orange and almond cake. Picture: Jess Warren

Each dish enjoyed throughout the lunch was packed full of flavour, with traditional Lebanese cooking methods showcasing the range of spices.

With a more relaxed, slower-paced style of dining, the Riverside-based restaurant is worth a visit to try something new. 

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