Founded in Lebanon in 1999 and now with a string of restaurants encircling Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Bahrain, Qatar and Cairo, cosmopolitan Abd el Wahab is a familiar sight to the Middle Eastern clientele who call Belgravia home through the summer months – not least because the sleek, simple decor is reminiscent of the Beirut original, especially the signature living wall.
Fatteh, a recommendation from the friendly waiter, was the standout mezze dish, featuring expertly cooked aubergine in a yoghurt and tahini sauce, topped with crisp fried bread. We also liked garlickly batata kazbra and the spinach fatayer was delicious – bright, fragrant and packing a punch. Moutabbal was the best of the dip-based mezze we tried, though the accompanying bread could have been fresher: a basic error for this style of restaurant.
The mezze were left on the table to go with our mains, which is how Lebanese should be eaten – as a proper eye-popping (and belt-loosening) feast. Seabass was beautifully grilled to crisp perfection, while skewered chicken with a thumping garlic sauce was much better than a rather dull ouzzi, a Lebanese meat dish of slow-roasted lamb.
For dessert we opted for a pretty plate of three Lebanese puddings – clotted cream ice cream, milk pudding and traditional candy floss – and rounded things off with a warming glass of white coffee featuring orange blossom and pine nuts.
Other drinks include Lebanese beers, arak and, of course, Lebanese wines, from some lesser-known producers as well as the country’ flagship chateaux Ksara and Musar. Non-drinkers, meanwhile, have the fresh juices and fragrant teas that make a Lebanese meal such a joy for teetotallers.
Abd el Wahab isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; instead it promotes authentic Lebanese fare with a high-class flourish to suit the swanky location, as too the impeccable and accommodating service from staff who know the menu inside out.