Oh, deep joy! I have found my perfect spot around the corner from the throng which is Covent Garden. Don’t get me wrong: I welcome visitors to this lovely city of ours, but it’s important to have a little corner of peace and quiet that one can call one’s own, with some great food at a reasonable price. I have found The Lebanese Bakery.
This contemporary café is close to those boutique shops and stalls selling retro clothes just like I once wore (how time flies), iffy tee-shirts just like I never did, and jewellery that I wish I could. There is plenty to see and do, but it gets more crowded as the day goes by. My advice: leave home or hotel early and have breakfast at the Lebanese Bakery; beat the crowds in delicious fashion.
The Lebanese Bakery is new, but it has already garnered a loyal following of locals and many of these seem actually to be Lebanese. That must be an accolade, and very handy if you are not sure what to order. The friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to make suggestions …or just order what those nice folks on the next table are having. That looks good.
Toppings for which to die
The menu has its focus on bread. Not a hint of sliced white, but rather in-house made and baked flatbread, with toppings for which to die. Come hungry, as you will want to sample a couple of these Manousheh. Better still, invite some friends and enjoy a spread of both colour and flavour. And yes, there are even a few dessert versions for those with a sweet tooth.
Many people just must start the day with an egg. The Lebanese Bakery can provide that comforting brekkie fresh from the huge open oven. Try free-range farmhouse eggs cracked and cooked to still-runny perfection on manousheh bread with Awarma, which is lamb confit. This combines eggy goodness with aromatically seasoned meat. It’s a hearty breakfast and will set up any diner till lunchtime.
Manousheh works for every meal of the day and for snacks in between. I have my favourites and these I could eat at any time. Kids will love the simplicity of Akkawi which is manousheh bread topped with soft and delicate cow’s milk cheese. Lahmeh Bi Ajin, with pomegranate molasses, minced beef and lamb with onions, will have the diner hooked after only one bite. It’s aromatic, moist and would go perfectly with a glass of Lebanese wine! And then one could have a second course of Haleweh (halva) and Strawberry with green pistachios. This looks striking and its taste is remarkable. It’s sweet but with adult balance. It’s too good for kids – although they will not agree, I am sure!
The signature dishes here must be Zaatar, and Zaatar & Zaatar. No, dear reader, your favourite restaurant reviewer hasn’t developed a cut-and-paste stutter. These are two different manousheh breads, and each displaying that spice mix to great advantage. Zaatar is a preparation of herbs and can be found in spice shops already prepared, although every company will produce their own blend. Here it is used as a light but flavourful topping for flatbread.
My must-try manousheh here is the curiously named Zaatar & Zaatar of tomato spread, thyme flower and fresh thyme, and it is outstanding. The topping is flavourful, bright with herbs and meltingly moreish. All the breads were good but this one has the edge.
The Lebanese Bakery has a great location and is open late enough to be handy for pre-theatre nibbles. The café is light and contemporary and just right for the location. This isn’t fast food, but more quality served very quickly. Prices are reasonable, too, and you can’t say that very often in this neighbourhood.
Sunday – Wednesday: 08:00-22:00
Thursday – Saturday: 08:00-23:00
The Lebanese Bakery
London WC2B 5HA
Phone: +44 (0) 203 8839033