Kenza 1

10 Devonshire Square , London, EC2M 4YP

Kenza 4

SquareMeal Review of Kenza

Etched brass, glowing lanterns, tapestries, embroidered pillows and the aroma of sweet spices all help to give Kenza its atmospheric vibe (the name is Arabic for ‘treasure’). Set up by Algerian-born Tony Kitous (of Comptoir Libanais fame), this exotic hangout is known for its heady mix of “charming” service, blasting North African beats and home-style Lebanese cooking. Char-grilled meats, kebabs, tagines and other mainstays loom large, although we recommend the feast menu with its ample selection of mezze: tabbouleh, batata harra (spicy sautéed potatoes with red pepper), falafel, fatayer sabanegh (spinach, pine nut and sumac pastries) and suchlike. For mains, there might be moussaka or farowj meshwi – charcoal-grilled baby chicken with a Lebanese salad, rice and harissa, which can be matched to a North African wine from the international list. Afterwards, pop down to the cocktail lounge for DJ sounds and belly dancing.  

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5.5

Food & Drink: 5.9

Service: 4.7

Atmosphere: 6.7

Value: 5.3

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Amy M. platinum reviewer 13 October 2015

Kenza seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. Billing itself as Lebanese, it is a bit of a middle eastern occidental confusion. Let's start with the food. All actually very good. We ordered 8 "starters" to create a mezze between three of us, which we couldn't finish. Very nice kibbe, both the lamb and the pumpkin - aromatic, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Weirdly served with tahini. Should be labne. The fattayer were well cooked, but not nearly lemony enough without the slightest hint of all spice and the tabbouleh lacked wheat to create texture. A real highlight was the fantastic baba ganoush and delicious felafel, however, felafel should always be served with lettuce and kabis. There were none! This is a such a no no. Finally the bread - I wouldn't go so far as to call it baladi - was great, except that it was microwaved as it went really hard a third of the way through the meal. Oven anyone? I do have an Egyptian father so maybe my expectations were too traditional, but the idea of a Lebanese restaurant with no kabis, makes the mind boggle. On the fun side - if you like that sort of thing - there is a 20 minute belly dancing show at 1930, surprising for a Monday and a soundtrack blasting Moroccan (?) music throughout. The cocktails are delicious and the service is charming. It's a good night out if you aren't expecting home cooking, which probably the Brits won't be! For less than £120 for the three of us, it's worth it.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 5.0

Andrea N. 23 April 2013

Throughly enjoyed the meal and evening out.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 1.0

Charlotte P. 31 October 2011

The truly fabulous food is thoroughly let down by the service and the most vulgar and obnoxious manager I have ever come across and the poor wait staff. This is the second time I have had this problem. In short, took an age to order, menu was unclear as you cannot mix and match set menus, told mains would be a further 15 mins having already waited 25 mins. When we said we’d leave the food as late to meet other chums the food arrived within 5 mins. I had hoped that the service issues were a one off as the food is amazing. Sadly not – I wont be going back! I recommended this restaurant to a vegetarian friend for her birthday. How much of a fool did I feel. They did give two bottles of complementary wine, sadly too little too late!

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

The Oz 21 May 2010

I've been popping in and out of this place for a number of years and throughout the renovation work in the surrounding office block. You will see various up's and down's in the reviews below and to a certain extent most are true. The food has gone downhill and the portions have reduced in size. However, if you were to visit as a first timer you would certainly be pleased. The service can be a little dissapointing at times but I imagine they have a large turn over of staff as I've never seen the same waiter twice. Without mentioning names, there are better establishments in the area. Its still a jewel, just needs a polish to sparkle once more.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Sabrina's Passions platinum reviewer 30 April 2010

Tall, exotic lamps stand like guards outside the heavy fortress-style wooden door. The interior reminds me of a cave, albeit a stylish cave with a descending staircase lit with warm candlelight. We begin the classic aubergine and tahini dip of Baba Ghannouj, which has a subtle smoky depth and a spike of lemon that balances the richness. ‘Makale Samak’ is next on our hit list, spicy sautéed squid served with a very moreish coconut and chill sauce followed by spicy ‘Soujoc’ lamb sausages, which are a Lebanese specialty. I like food that packs a punch flavour and Middle Eastern food rarely disappoints. The main course arrives and I try to tell myself that I’m not yet full, when secretly I am stuffed. But I have never let a silly thing like ‘appetite’ get in the way of a full-on feast and I’m certainly not about to start now. We opt for a modern Moroccan-inspired dish of pan-fried salmon fillet with a pomegranate glaze and a salad of cucumber and courgette, as well as the classic ‘Meshawy’ mixed grill platter of chunks of tender marinated chicken and lamb and a wonderfully spicy minced lamb kebab with a trace of cinnamon and a slight chilli kick, served with basmati rice, strewn with vermicelli strands. Simply delightful, but really doing nothing to ease my expanding waistband. But that’s what I like about Middle-Eastern food, you can eat and eat (and eat) until you can’t breathe any longer and then you follow it all with a mint tea chaser and suddenly you find room for dessert. What kind of bizarre trickery is this? I shall never understand. Kenza offers something that little bit different, which is just you need sometimes. The restaurant itself has an air of Souk-like fantasy which makes it a great place to escape the world, knock back a few Mezza washed down with some cocktails. I can see why it appeals to the City crowd so much, with very few exciting restaurants in area, Kenza stands out and perhaps deservedly so. The interior design alone is well worth a visit. Well… it’s cheaper than a flight to Morocco, surely?

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 0.0

Louise K. 09 November 2009

We have been twice before in small groups (both times in 2008) and were always impressed by generous portions and attentive service. The 3rd time was my 21st Birthday and it was AWFUL. I had promised my party of 12 that it was worth paying £29.50 a head for the forementioned reasons. I was left embarrassed and apologising after our 3rd and final visit. Kenza has either gone VERY downhill or simply lower their standards dramatically when it comes to hosting larger groups. As the meal progressed I had noticed that things seemed to be missing from the menu and that the portions weren't even half of what we'd been served in the past. I asked a waiter for a menu so that I could confirm my suspicions. This never came. I have checked the menu since and have found that 2 dishes were missing from our meal! I tried to complain about portions twice but the front of house staff were dealing with a queue of customers both times. The worst of the portions were with the desserts. I had been raving to my friends about the Baklawa but when it came there was only enough for 1 each. We sat there dividing up individual pieces into 3 so that most people could try all of the different types. The ‘platter’ of fruit was a small bunch of red grapes and 3 strawberries on each. In addition to this, service was awful. I asked for my Rihana cocktail 3 times. My partner asked for his twice. My mother asked for hers and was given lemonade (no one had ordered lemonade). We had to ask for it again after it was sent back. It finally arrived as she was leaving so she only managed a couple of sips before paying for it. I emailed the restuarant for an apology within a few days yet I was ignored. I sent another email 10 days later which eventually got a reply. I was told that my complaint was being investigated and that I would be contacted soon. It's been 3 weeks and still nothing.

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 1.0

Mitzie8cake platinum reviewer 04 November 2009

Its been a good few years since I last stepped down into the spiral staircase that leads to Kenza. When being seated (ironically the same table we were at the previous visit) I suddenly remembered why. The first time I visited was soon after its opening on a crisp night in November, much like last night ,so when you walk into an inviting interior such as the one in Kenza, you expect to be filled with warmth from all the ample candles and rich colours. You don't, instead you are met with an uncomfortable and cold draft from the spiralling staircase which hits most tables in the bar and is then equalled by intense AC in the main restaurant. Suddenly I wished i hadn't given my coat in. Moving on to the meal, when dining in a group at Kenza you are limited to a set feast, which in itself is not a problem and one I look forward to especially having experienced feasts at Levant. The problem arises with the consistency with which the courses are served. What we had experienced (and unfortunately forgotten when booking for last night's meal) on our first visit was once again repeated, with neglectful and slow staff failing to see when we had finished each course. The service dwindles and fails miserably as the night goes on, to the point where you are actively having to flag a waiter to come and service your table (if you can spot one that is). On the point of the food itself, there is actually little to say except that the main was rather reminiscent of a plate of supermarket aubergines, economy tinned tomatoes and chickpeas served with barely boiled rice and sprinkled with over-fried onions. The only saving grace are a small selection of starters, though I couldn't tell you which as they were never explained to us. Dialogue with staff is always short and they hardly seem to care whether you liked your food or not or if you'd like another bottle of wine…upselling seems to be a lost art to these inanimate souls. Even the manager was running around like a blue ass fly rather than observing and directing his staff. The whole set up is at best a shambles and at worst a complete dining disaster. The only thing to comfort you in this place is the warm and sweet refreshing mint tea that is eventually served at the end of the meal which is then followed by a hefty and unjustifiable bill, bringing you right back to square one. In short…if its good lebanese food in impressive surroundings with oodles of ambience you're after – go to Levant. The only reason Kenza is still opening its doors each day, is for the ample city workers and their business lunches who, paying on expenses obviously don't care about the price tag and/or whose tastebuds have clearly gone on holiday!

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 2.0

ash k. 19 October 2009

AVOID AT ALL COSTS!. we booked as a large group in advance and found the service to be very very bad, the worst member of the service team was the manager incredibly rude and the food was inedible we asked for the service charge to be removed as some of our group were quiet up set by how the staff wer treating them, which is a very common request yet we found our selves faced with the manager who began arguing with us about it. we spent in more than £700 and had a terrible night.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

LondonAJ silver reviewer 29 August 2009

Tucked away in Devonshire Square, but right on top of Liverpool Street, this place is a real gem. Visited here with girlfriends on a Friday night & took advantage of the 50% off food offered by Squaremeal. I think without this, the food would be deemed as quite expensive, but great value for money with! On arriving, the courtyard/walkway to the restaurant is covered with candles, morrocan floor rugs & rose petals, leading you down the winding staircase down to the large basement restaurant. Very atmosheric & decorated in a sumptious style. Staff very attentive, friendly & helpful. We ordered 6 dishes from the Meze starters & all were well presented & extremely tasty. The main dishes were delicious too & portion size was good. We had the chicken & lamb kebabs which came on long, metal skewers on ornate brass oval platters,with flat breads,salad & the tastiest rice any of us had ever eaten… very impressive. At around 9.15pm, the music is turned up & belly dancers perform at your tables & you are encouraged to get up & try your hand, great fun. The toilets deserve a mention too, Morrocan in style with fantastic, brass hand basin/trough…& sweet smelling :-) I believe you could enjoy this restaurant for any occasion whether with friends or a romantic meal for two. I will be returning & will request the booth type tables which are enclosed with ornate carved wooden canopies. Great if there's six or more of you.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 1.0

Liam C. bronze reviewer 17 April 2009

I went last night with two other friends on a 50% off deal. From the beginning I concur with what others say below, the atmosphere is great and entirely different from the usual suspects available in this area of the city. Rich terracotta walls, beads, brass and fabrics. Incense as you come to the bottom of spiral sand coloured stairs and roses and floating candles when you open the door. This is all after a few brass lamps with tea lights and a heavy looking wooden door at the end of a ‘red carpet’. Once inside, belly dancers appeared around 9pm and people started to get up and dance with them – think lecherous, over confident investment bankers and secretaries who clearly drank too much before they arrived. It was entertaining and if you're on a first date with someone it certainly provides a talking point. The negatives are that the place is hugely overpriced. I regularly eat and cook arabic food. This overpriced theme appears here and there in arabic food places and the argument is often because the food is fairly labour intensive and the ingredients are often not in season and not native to the UK in any event. However at Kenza this argument carries little weight as you are clearly paying for atmosphere and not food. This defeats the purpose of a restaurant in my view where the atmosphere should be secondary to the food; if you feel differently you may find it cheaper to eat at the Rainforest Cafe. We were given crudites as we sat down. We ordered the mezze at £35 a head each (pre 50% cull) and enjoyed it but I am glad that I was on the 50% deal or else I would have really worried as to where the money went. This mezze mix included 5 different starters, pitta bread which kept being refilled and assorted dips. For mains we had baby chicken, mixed grill of lamb and chicken and a salmon dish on which we remarked that we're glad we had the other stuff there as it paled in comparison to the other mains – tasty but not astonishing. The desserts arrived in a brass, high tea like tower (think the Ritz, Browns) which included an assortment of fruit, turkish delight, pistachios and a few baklava. There was also great ceremony as our waiter poured hot sweetened water into glasses with a scattering of mint leaves. The drinks are again overpriced I think and the service charge was as large as our drinks bill (we had 2 GTs, 2 bottled beers and 1 diet coke between three). This particularly bothered me as the service was kind but it is easier to crash a wedding than to make eye contact with the waiters. It was fairly busy in our section I'll give them that AND they had to negotiate their way around the voluptuous dancers. Would I go back again? Debatable. I would go on the 50% off. I think there are a lot of other places which surpass this place in terms of food – and in terms of arabic food. The atmosphere is great but if you have been to something like Buddha Bar then you'd probably seen it before and on a bigger scale. I won't go back in a hurry but it was certainly a fun thing to do on a Thursday night.

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