Lebanese Dining in Mayfair at Abd el Wahab:
Abd el Wahab, a new Lebanese Restaurant has opened in Mayfair. I love Lebanese food and wine so I was delighted to be invited along to the opening. Located on Pont Street, it has a classic bistro look about it, with plenty of outside space for alfresco eating. However, given the falling snow, the lights and warmth inside were much more appealing.
I say new, but Abd el Wahab was founded in 1999 in Beirut, Lebanon, and so named because it was on the street of “abd el wahab El Inglizi”. The street still hosts a blend of historic and modern buildings which embodies the Lebanese adoption of culture, both new and old. Since then, Abd el Wahab has expanded out to 18 cities around the world, including Cairo, Dubai, Doha and now London.
On entering the restaurant I was warmly greeted with a glass of champagne whilst someone took my coat and scarf (it was snowing that night as I said). The reception area is charmingly decorated with colourful flowers and is large, allowing groups to arrive and gather without disturbing the diners further inside.
The layout of the restaurant naturally splits into three areas, but all three have an upmarket, Lebanese Mediterranean feel about them. Walls with living plants and stone from Beirut along with designer chairs give the restaurant an air of dining in modern, cultural surroundings.
Lebanese cuisine at Abd el Wahab is all about eating slowly, having great conversation and enjoying all the four courses through the meal. The food dishes, like good wine, are to be shared by diners, giving you a very social and family feel to dining. The menu is extensive and easily allows for vegetarian and vegans to have a wide range of dishes that regular meat eaters would enjoy.
Firstly the cold starters, called Mezza, arrive consisting of a wide selection of hummus, eggplant (aubergine) and salads and tabbouleh.
The tabbouleh with the pomegranate seeds wasn’t just tasty but very aromatic too. Mixed pickles, olive and mushrooms were a great dish to share, and an ideal way to start the meal. The hummus dip didn’t last long enough to photograph, with 2 guests saying it was the best they had ever tasted. Needless to say, it had been freshly made that night, as had everything else on the menu.
One unusual dish, which had everyone coming back for more was the Abd el Wahad Mhamara. A mix of walnut, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses and chilli paste, it had a nutty consistency with a spicy rather than hot bite at the end. None of us had had this before and we all agreed that we had been missing out.
Next, the Hot Mezza, a selection of tasty finger foods. Just some of the dishes we had included cheesy rolls, kebbah meat balls, shredded lamb with pomegranate and some more amazing dishes below.
Sambousik is a well-known dish, deep fried dough stuffed with minced meat, onions and pine nuts. The challenge with being well known is that every dinner will be comparing the dish. But, this Sambousik was good. Really good. Somehow Abd El Wahab chefs had managed to keep all the simplicity of the dish whilst building the texture and flavours without making it too fiddly.
On this visit, I was the only blogger there, so it would have been rude of me to demand I take a picture of every dish before we shared it. There were many more dishes that came out that I didn’t get shots of such was the hospitality of Abd el Wahab. The format of the meal meant that although I was sitting at a table with complete strangers, we all shared conversation as we passed dishes and comments around. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can imagine how good this would be with family, a group of friends or work colleagues.
Abd El Wahab has a fully stocked Lebanese wine collection as well as Lebanese beer and manager Mark Dickinson was proud to talk us through the wine choices, their history and pairings. You can order wine by the bottle or choose to have paired wine to enhance your experience at this Lebanese restaurant.
Everyone was surprised by how good the Lebanese Chateau Ksara was, with no real comparison the French wine. Les Breteches was slightly more predictable, in a good way, but all of us agreed that there was no reason not to have a Lebanese wine with the meal.
Both of the wines are only £22 a bottle which is an amazing deal for true Lebanese wine in a Mayfair restaurant.
The main course, Mashawi or grill, is typically lamb, chicken kebabs, or other marinaded meats. A good fish and shrimp selection are also available.
The mixed grill, with flatbreads and salad had that perfect mix of smoky searing and succulent moist inside which you can only get from hand cooking. The pan-fried eggs with Kawarma meat was another delicacy we had not experienced before. It was similar to a smoky omelette, but made with the white of the egg made it much lighter and added a lighter bite in between the meat. Although it may not seem like a good match I would recommend it.
As the plates cleared, the desserts arrived. Once again, an amazing assortment of colours and flavours that just had to be enjoyed. No Lebanese meal is complete without a plate of fruit and the fresh Lebanese oranges with a hand-carved pineapple boat was perfect. It also acted as a nice amuse-bouche before the sweeter desserts.
The Abd el Wahab special pistacio baklawa stuffed with ashta and topped with sahlab ice cream and Ghazel el Banet were not just pretty to look at but rich and creamy to eat. Maintaining the baklawa flavours you would expect, the extra cream and ashta just made this a moorish delicacy.
Just when you thought it would be hard to get anything fancier, out came a speciality dessert from Abd el Wahad – an Ashtaliyeh dish of finely spun candy floss. Wrapped around a centred of Mhalbieh, it sits on a bed of ashta cream with mixed pistachio and was an amazing mix of presentation and flavours. The sugar candy floss broke down easily as you ate it and was much lighter than you might expect. The evening wrapped up with a good Lebanese coffee and conversation about how much we had all enjoyed our time here. New friends and new food.
Abd el Wahab is clearly a place to go to with family or friends, either for lunch or dinner. The atmosphere is good, the staff attentive but not intrusive, and it’s a place where good food and good conversation go hand in hand. Better still, it’s in Mayfair but without the Mayfair prices – most starters are around £7 and mains around £18, so you can enjoy the experience without worrying about the bill.
Abd el Wahab
1-3 Pont Street
020 7235 0005