What: Beirut soul food has come to the town of Reigate. Lebnani is described by the owners as being the only Lebanese restaurant within a 30 miles radius from the Surrey town.
Who: Yalla Yalla founder Jad Youssef is behind the restaurant, which opened earlier this month. Hailing from Beirut, Youssef says he grew up in his mother’s kitchen and also spent in his father’s traditional Lebanese pastry shop, both of which instilled his country’s food culture in him. Before Lebnani, Youssef spent the past 14 years in London, founding Beirut street food restaurant group Yalla Yalla in 2009 in Soho following a stint at Lebanese restaurant Fakhreldine in Piccadilly.
The food: The restaurant sources much of its produce from the local area from Surrey and Sussex farms, with the menu split into three broad sections - mezze, larger plates and those from the grill. Mezze items include Beirut Fattoush salad; and stuffed vine leaves while roasted cauliflower with tahini, harrisa and sumac labne makes up one of three larger plates on offer. Central to Lebnani’s offer is ‘its from the charcoal’ dishes. such as chicken wings marinated in toum, lemon and pomegranate molasses; and spiced minced lamb shoulder with onion, all spice and tahini.
The vibe: The idea behind Lebnani was to create a distinct but informal dining experience that tells a story about Beirut, Lebanese culture or cuisine. It does this with its bright but minimal interior of a green and grey colour palette that features homely touches such as pot plants and ornaments and cutlery kept in reused tins on tables.
And another thing: Youssef has been a driving force for the Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine in this country. He was head chef and part of the opening team at Kenza Restaurant and Lounge in the capital and also headed up the opening team of Lebanese restaurant group Comptoir Libanais.
11 Church Street, Reigate, Surrey