We collected our friends Alan and Erika at 7.30pm last night from the Bouganville Hotel where they were taking a last minute break to get away from the cold Yorkshire weather. We have been meeting up with them for the past 4 years when they come on holiday and as Al says ‘You always do us proud’ when we go for a meal. This undoubtedly adds pressure to choosing somewhere a little different that they will hopefully like, although they are really quite easy to please.
They both like their food, apart from fish, unless served in batter, and don´t mind paying as long as it is quality. What puts Erika off – and me too, is when a plate comes to the table piled high and looking as if it has come from a works canteen.
Although they had booked half board at the hotel, they have only had breakfast there once on their first day. For them there is too much pushing and shoving, people grabbing everything in sight as if it is going out of fashion and some even taking plastic bags to fill with fruit and rolls for lunch. So despite having paid for food they have gone outside to bars and restaurants each lunchtime and evening.
OH and I had wanted to try Habibi, the Lebanese restaurant in San Telmo for a long time and not quite got around to it, so this was a good excuse. It was purely chance that we booked a table on Saturday night, while out walking the dogs. We certainly didn´t think it would be necessary but how wrong we were! When we arrived at 8.00pm, we decided to sit outside and have a cigarette and a drink before moving to our table. When the waitress came to take our drinks order she asked if we would mind sitting at our table as they were having to turn would-be diners away, telling them the empty table was in fact reserved. She said if we wanted an ashtray this was fine because the dining area of the restaurant is on a pretty terrace overlooking Las Vistas beach so the new smoking ban was not applicable.
When the menu arrived it was interesting, I couldn´t pronounce many of the names but everything had a good description in several languages. We opted to share a starter of Lebanese bread smothered with feta cheese and tomato. It arrived looking like but not tasting like a very thin pizza, lovely. For our main courses, we chose chicken with a fruit sauce, a chicken and a lamb dish both served with fresh vegetables. These were chunky carrots, potatoes, and those pale green marrows that are very popular here, don´t know their name, and a thin, mild mango curry sauce and a Lebanese lamb kebab. All the dishes came with aromatic Lebanese rice, which if available I will always choose as I have a weakness for spicy rather than hot foods and the mixture of rice, nuts, fruit and allspice is one of my favourites. Since first tasting, I have always liked Lebanese cuisine as for me; it characterizes all aspects of the Mediterranean as well as combining the sophistication and subtleties of European cuisines with exotic ingredients, fruit and vegetables.
There was certainly no rushing, the service was friendly and relaxed. Our waitress was happy to describe what was in each dish and give her recommendations based on what type of meat or pudding we liked.
When it was time for dessert we chose a typical Lebanese dish which was a sort of Panna cotta flavoured with rosewater and drizzled with raspberry coulis and pistachio, delicious and of course baklava. The coffee was excellent and we all had double helpings, unusual for me as I never have more than one.
We didn´t leave until gone midnight, it was a lovely atmosphere the staff were happy to chat and gave us a free limoncello each when they presented the bill. It was just €85 that also included our drinks and 4 bottles of water. At those prices and with the quality of the food it is hardly surprising the place was full. I would have no hesitation in recommending but would suggest that you phone or call in to reserve a table. For the vegetarian there is an excellent choice of meals and for the men ….. they have a belly-dancer on Friday and Saturday evenings!! Tel 922750952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org