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A Lebanese feast in Kensington, Randa Restaurant:
Walking up Kensington Church Street to Randa, I saw what I thought looked like an old pub. Not what I’d expected from the outside, though I’ve been to other restaurants in the Maroush group before and even reviewed the Maroush bakehouse last year. A light and airy interior with a mezzanine area and an open kitchen made for a welcoming environment
Each of the Maroush group of restaurants has a distinct position. While Randa isn’t quite fine dining, it’s definitely the kind of place you’d go for a good meal out in relaxed but well managed surroundings. Well designed and laid out, the service was excellent. And, I was lucky enough to find myself sitting next to a charming lady visiting from the US who had been brought up in Egypt and the Lebanon. She told me that every time she came to London she made a point of visiting Randa, her favourite Lebanese restaurant and one that reminded her of the food she ate as a child. Not a bad recommendation.
Meanwhile, still waiting for May, I started on the large bowl of fresh vegetables on the table…and ate almost all the olives. Oh well…
The manager of Randa had suggested that we order the set menu for two so that we could experience a good range of dishes. That meant we were looking forward to Hommos, moutabal, tabbouleh, falafel, soujok, batata harra, jawaneh followed by mixed grills and Lebanese sweets baklawa. And May when she arrived ordered an extra dish Kibbeh Shameyieh, which is deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onions, filled with sauteed mincedmeat and onions. Definitely not necessary! We could have stopped after the Meze!
May ordered a soft drink but I was keen to try a Lebanese wine and was offered a half bottle of Ksara Red Reserve Du Couvent Bekaa Valley. A lovely rich and fruity red wine that made the perfect accompaniment to the dinner.
Tabbouleh is a real favourite of mine. As part of a mixed meze, it really helps counter some of the deep fried dishes. The lady sitting on the next table told us that the correct way to eat it was not, as I thought, with flat bread, but by using the lettuce leaves as a scoop.
Falafel were pleasantly crunchy on the outside with a dense chickpea filling.
Spicy chicken wings (Jawaneh) were succulent, nicely charred and very moreish. I think we managed to eat them all between the two of us…
I still remember the Moutabal Baba Ghanouj from my visit to the Maroush Bakery. It’s nothing like the stuff you buy in tubs at the supermarket, a sweet, smokey, creamy and light cocoction topped off perfectly with passion fruit seeds.
The spicy Lebanese sausages (Soujok) are made in house and cooked in lemon. The problem for me with this type of food is that I like it all. And I eat it all!
And then May orders extras…although I am glad that I tried the Kibbeh Shameyieh I’m not entirely sure we needed MORE food. You can just see the spicy potatoes (Batata Harra) behind these deep fried lamb meatballs.
Of course there was hummus, and lebanese bread (made daily at the bake house).
For me, the main course mixed grill was a little disappointing. I’d expected skewers of meat rather than a plate of slices, topped with flat breads and served with grilled tomatoes and a salad. But in all honesty by this stage I wasn’t really hungry, and perhaps part of the issue was that I’d really already eaten enough. Somehow I managed to eat a good portion – once I tasted it I wanted to eat more.
There was a plate of fresh fruit for dessert and these wonderful traditional baclava which I think I’ve enjoyed every time I visit a maroush restaurant
A meal at Randa will set you back around £30-40 a head including half a bottle of wine a person, a very fair price for a restaurant in one of London’s more expensive areas. Go hungry and expect to end the evening full of delicious Lebanese treats.
My thanks to the management of Randa for the opportunity to review their restaurant. All views expressed here are my own.
23 Kensington Church Street