02 August 2009

Macaroons and Mint Tea; I Must Be in...Marylebone

I've walked past the relatively new Comptoir Libanais, on Wigmore Street on the southern extreme of the quartier, a number of times but have never had the time to stop in. I remember being impressed by a very positive Time Out review of the smart, bright, fun and pretty cheap café. The reviewer's first thought was that it was a great place for breakfast, a quick lunch or afternoon tea/coffee and his second was that there are a whole load of other Lebanese cafés just ten minutes walk away on the Edgware Road and that they're probably a whole lot more authentic (and possibly cheaper). However, the reviewer pointed out that there is a somewhat different target audience at the Comptoir Libanais--the well-heeled residents of Marylebone and shoppers ambling between the back of Selfridges and John Lewis. I can't imagine going to sit by myself with a book and a mint tea in most of the slightly dingy looking cafés on the Edgware Road.

I was just as impressed with the Comptoir as the reviewer. As I'd already eaten lunch, I just wanted a drink and a little something to satiate my sweet tooth--fresh mint tea and a chocolate macaroon seemed like the perfect way to go and £3 bought me a huge pot of a tea and a macaroon big enough to keep my stomach quiet. And--miraculous in London in 2009--there was no "suggested" 12.5% service charge (this was lucky really because although my tea came quickly, I watched my macaroon sit on top of the counter for about ten minutes before I decided to go over and get it myself). They have several colourful, high canteen-style tables at which you can perch, as well as bigger, standard tables at the back of the café and a few tables outside for those rare moments when it's warm enough (although I often see people sitting outdoors at the cafés on the Edgware Road smoking shisha in the depths of winter, I can't really imagine the same happening here).

The food and drinks menus both looked interesting. They have a tasty sounding range of juices (including apple, cucumber and mint) and fresh lemonades (such as apple, mint and ginger) and then cakes (of the French patisserie variety), Lebanese breads (mostly for takeaway), salads, meze and moussaka. None of the options is very expensive (for Marylebone) and my macaroon was yummy (the fresh mint tea was good too, although even I find it hard to mess up putting some mint leaves in a pot of boiling water). I would definitely go back, either for a light lunch or for an lazy afternoon tea with a book, a Moleskine or a friend.

On the way home, I walked past the Villandry, another café in the quartier that I've been meaning to sample (this one also being a bar, restaurant and gourmet food shop) and the thought of a good bacon sarnie might even make me want to head over there for a spot of petit déj before work one day (when I'm not working in Nowheresville, at least).

Comptoir Libanais. 65 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1PZ (Tube: Bond Street). Website. Twitt.

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