19 Feb Minn’s Munchtime – Maroush
I’ve often passed by the flaming torches flanking the entrance to Maroush. While they give me Lord of the Rings flashbacks (‘The beacons of Gondor have been lit!’), they do fill you with relief on a pouring, dark February evening. My partner and I had chosen Maroush for our Valentine’s dinner, but mainly to fill our Lebanese gastronomic void. As I’d pre-booked, we were given the special Valentine’s menu which included a selection of hot and cold starters, mains, desserts with tea or coffee, and a glass of prosecco each (I went for non-alcoholic mango juice). Since everything we ate is also on the normal menu, I thought I’d share this with my Munchtime readers! The location is super central, just off Oxford Street, a stone’s throw from BBC Wogan House, Regent Hall and Wigmore Hall.
The restaurant is split into a number of levels. We were up in the quieter mezzanine level, while the majority of the dining area is on the ground floor. Customers are also able to sit facing the kitchen and interact with the chefs as they plate up. The waiters were nicely attentive without being overpowering and made sure to inform me of which dishes contained gluten. Slightly unusually they asked us between each course whether we were ready for the next course to start being prepared, therefore arriving in ten minutes or so. I saw them calling down to the kitchen after this, so it bode well for food being cooked fresh to order, particularly important for the charcoal grilled dishes.
We started with the cold mezze – hummus, moutabal baba ghanouj (smokey aubergine dip) and tabbouleh (herby salad with bulgur wheat). Warm flatbreads were topped up during service. Both dips were subtle, with a delicious drizzle of virgin olive oil on top. The hummus was more chickpea than tahini, fluffy rather than sticky and sprinkled with paprika, while the baba ghanouj was decorated with sumac for a lemony touch. Some hot mezze joined the crowd – spicy sausages, meaty king prawns in a tomato, ratatouille-style sauce, lamb balls spiced with cumin and four small spinach and cheese pastries. All delicious and I could have been content with that on a normal day!
On to the meat fest – a platter of grilled meats adorned with raw onions, one HUGE salad leaf, coriander, new potatoes and tomatoes. The lamb chops were my favourite with the wonderful herby fragrance of za’atar (oregano and thyme mixture) and perfectly rendered fat. Also in attendance were lamb kofta and grilled chicken on a skewer. These were best drizzled with lemon as they were slightly on the drier side due to the the cut of meat, or you could use one of the spicy or garlic sauces. Representing the fish was a baked filet of salmon in a dill butter sauce. Finishing the mains were some vegetables – carrots, tenderstem broccoli and asparagus. I wasn’t a fan of the sauce they were dressed in, it tasted like berries to me. I found that jarred against the flavours of the vegetables. Otherwise, it was another comprehensive and certainly tasty selection of mains.
After a little breather the desserts wound their way up the stairs. Fortunately they were petite pastries, particularly as they were all destined for my glutinous (and gluttonous 😀 ) partner. These included baklava which was more crispy from the filo pastry, though all four were reportedly nutty, sweet and chewy. Accompanying the pastries was some ice cream. We had chocolate and mango varieties, both flavourful and smooth. Normally they are served in a wafer cup, but they put mine in a glass as a gluten free version. We drank excellent fresh mint tea in elegant Lebanese glassware in an attempt to aid digestion before waddling off to Oxford Circus station.
I reckon if you had been on a double date and had the same amount of food, you’d still be comfortably full. There was a LOT of food! So despite this Valentine’s menu being £40 per person, that’s inclusive of some drinks and a fantastically wide selection from the main menu, so I would say it was worth it. Normal menu prices are on average £16 per main, but if their portion sizes are as generous as what we had, there should be plenty of food without having to have a starter.
For quick lunchtimes they have a wide choice of wraps – all using freshly made Lebanese khobez (flatbread) for around £5-6. They’ve even got your after-party sorted with a special cocktail menu and wine list complete with Lebanese wines. If you’re lucky, in the basement from Wed-Sundays you can catch with live music and belly dancing!
Maroush is really convenient in that is has food to suit your time frame. You can grab takeaway food for lunch, dinners can be as swift or relaxed as you like, and then you can have a drink with nibbles after a gig. Add to that its prime location and fantastic, generous fresh food and you’ve got a winner!
Rating: 9/10 Worth crossing Middle Earth for
Receipt: £80 Valentine’s Menu (do check website for normal menu pricing)