Yes, yes, I know, my last post was a food based one. Don’t panic, this will be the last foodie one (this month), I promise! Still, you can’t grumble too much – the last one was mostly plagiarised and this is all my own work.
Where better to write a review for, than one of my favourite restaurants, if not my favourite one of all. I actually posted a review on Time Out back in June of last year and, rambling though it may have been, summed up fairly accurately how I feel about the place.
I remember my brother-in-law telling his sister (aka Mrs Dad) that he’d ‘discovered’ a new Lebanese restaurant, just down the road from us. Now this is more exciting than it might seem. For years we have trekked to Little Beirut (Edgware Road) for an authentic bite to eat, when my brother-in-laws mum (aka Mrs Dad’s mum, aaka my monster-in-law) hasn’t cooked a dish for a while which, I have to say, is happening more and more.
(It turns out that her cooking anything comes as a direct response to one of her grandchildren (aka my kids) requesting something Lebanesey. Man, if only I’d known that I could’ve dropped hints eons ago.
Still, never too late, and all that!
And although there is one other very decent restaurant of the same ilk in the opposite direction, it is;
a) a good two miles further away and
b) a very large restaurant indeed, detracting from the friendly and intimate nature of the place I’m going to review. But I’m jumping the gun somewhat so let’s crack on.
The section of Trinity Road where Meza sits, leading immediately away from Tooting Bec towards Wandsworth Common, is far from being an attractive stretch of tarmac. It is lined with shops (of a sort) and other eateries, none of which you’ll have heard of (ie no high street giants) which does, I s’pose, give it a certain unique charm. Incidentally, we had a very important guest lunching with us, and when he hadn’t shown up at 15 minutes past the allotted time, I ambled down to the other Lebanese joint just in case he’d confused the two.
I tapped on the glass, beckoned him out and, while we walked back together, I agonised over how many other people whom I had recommended Meza to had also gotten the two places muddled up. The gaff where I’d found our VIP is definitely more of a ‘kebab house’ (perfectly located opposite a pub) than a restaurant. I ‘agonised’ with good reason because I’m fairly sure people of my acquaintance have a dim enough view of my good self without my getting them to eat in second rate establishments.
So, Meza restaurant; let’s start at the beginning.
Meza is not a big place - I’m talking smaa-a-all. Yeah, it’s very tiny and can seat no more than, I’d say, about 16-17 people, and that’s at a push! Before the owner created the space for an extra table last year, we booked the entire place out for a birthday – there were 11 of us!
It may very well go without saying that, being married to a Lebanese woman has exposed me to lots of food from this country and region; some of it good, some of it bad, some excellent as well as some dire. The food at Meza is among the best I have eaten, be it in W2, SW17 or, believe it or not, Lebanon itself.
The proprietor’s name is pronounced Hekmat (although I’ve never confirmed the correct spelling of this) and between himself and his right hand man Nader, they produce some very delicious food.
The menu has been kept simple and only a couple of specials change regularly. He is open to suggestions about what to feature and as an example, at Mrs Dad’s request, he began offering chicken livers, done Lebanese style, natch.
All the usual suspects are there for the ordering and, regardless of what we may request for our ‘main’ (the inverted commas are there ‘cos Lebanese food isn’t really about starter, mains and dessert – it’s ‘meza/meze’ or, a selection of small dishes and where the restaurant takes its name from).
After politely enquiring what our esteemed guest would like to eat/try, the following was ordered; (but not before we’d asked for a bottle of Lebanese red – dunno why I never took a piccy of it, soz!)
Tabbouleh – needs no introduction methinks
Hummous – always ‘home-made’ while you’re sat there. If you really want, you can stand at the small ‘bar’ separating the kitchen and watch them knock it up!
Falafel – we didn’t order these but were presented with them ‘to try’. I’m usually a bit more au fait with the tahini dip being on the side but these were delicious, so no complaints.
Baba ghanoush – well, what’s left of it! Prepared in a similar fashion to hummous but instead of chick pea, you use aubergines, smoked over the open coals to give it a wonderfully smokey taste. Served with pomegranate.
Labneh – a thick and creamy yoghurt.
Kibbeh – ooh, now yer talkin’. This unassuming little dish was one of the first tastes of Lebanon I ever had and makes an appearance by default whenever we eat this food. Minced lamb, pine kernals and burghul. If I am being 100% honest, the kibbeh in my pic spent maybe 30 seconds too long in the fryer – not that this bothered me all that much but I don’t want you thinking I don’t acknowledge the rough with the smooth!
Shish tawook – marinated chicken cooked over open coals, it is meltingly delicious and incredibly moist, served with salad, pickles and taratoor / toom sauce (aioli).
The coffee is made strong and with lots of cardamom. It’s very much a ‘marmite’ way of drinking coffee – you either love it or you hate it and it’s one of the very few things Lebanese that I love and Mrs Dad hates. Thanks to my new found companion rosacea, coffee has very much been taken off the menu, at least in an everyday capacity, and for some reason this style of coffee doesn’t kick it into gear, so hurrah for that!
The main selling point of this place (if you haven’t already been won over by my multitude of adjectives) is the owner. Hekmat is just a nice guy, plain and simple, and not only is he an extremely good chef, he has also nailed being the friendly manager who knows everybody’s name. He has realised that by giving a little, he can expect bigger in return. For example, he won’t charge for the smaller things – perhaps a coffee, some namoora or baklava. If you read above, you’ll see he brought us some freshly made falafel to ‘try’ and which doesn’t appear on the bill. Talking of the bill actually, we often don’t get one but trust me on this, his verbal summary of what we owe him, is always vastly short of what it should be. In ‘retaliation’, we automatically pay far more than he originally asked for, which naturally results in some good natured Lebanese haggling (always good fun).
Come and find out what all the fuss is about and join the fast growing list of people who consider this place, one of their favourites too.
34 Trinity Road