Like any good chain, the ethos is built on dependability
As a western expat brat growing up in the Middle East, you get used to a certain ‘bubble’ culture; pools, American malls, coffee shops on every corner and endless Lamborghinis. In that sort of sanitized environment of absolute wealth, conservative traditions and punitive justice, there isn’t very much in the way of criminal activity, and even though I love London to absolute smithereens, it’s times like this that I miss the bubble. The recent news of a serial sex attacker wandering around my neck of the woods has me worried, and I am prone to paranoia. Nobody knows the extent of this more than my dad who, at my behest, erected an impenetrable metal mesh on our front door after I watched a particularly disturbing movie trailer. He wishes I was joking.
For all the scary stuff out there, it’s nice to be reassured by the things that bring a sense of continuity, uniformity and dependability. In the food world, these things are called Chains.
Since reading the news, I feel an impending worry and wonder if I should Hailo a cab to the tube. On my way out of work, I scope out every man in a beanie and get whiplash from yanking round to see if I’m being followed. I think about if I should chance buying that breed of dog to frighten off any would-be attackers, as long as I can keep it from eating me in my sleep. I don’t feel like this at Comptoir Libanais, but perhaps it is more to do with the Chelsea location; nothing too bad could happen to someone that close to Sloane Square. They have a lot of CCTV.
It seems there are quite a few people who feel the same way; Comptoir Libanais is packed, elbow to elbow. It’s not a small place but still there is a jostling queue 20-strong and growing. Clearly people like the accessibility and fresh presentation of Comptoir’s brand of Lebanese food – after all, there aren’t many Middle Eastern restaurants that don’t operate as a shisha dispensary first and a restaurant second.
The food is good, but not brilliant – but that’s not really the point. Falafel, lamb kibbeh, hommos and baklawa – they are what they are and if you’re in the mood for any of them you’ll be set right at Comptoir Libanais.
The point is this – at Comptoir Libanais you know where you stand, you know what you will eat and how much you will pay. Often, you will not pay very much. Whether it is financial turmoil that is upsetting your peace, or the threat of actual attack, there are places to go where things are familiar and easy. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
Tube: Sloane Square
Address: 1-5 Exhibition Road, London, UK SW7 2HE
Tel: 020 7225 5006
I was invited to review Comptoir Libanais