So a little while back, EF were fortunate enough to have been approached & invited to visit this authentic Lebanese restaurant & shisha lounge in Ilford.
The first thing I noticed when approaching the restaurant, was the sheer size of it – huge! The restaurant is spread over 2 floors, with a shisha lounge to the front. Upon arrival, restaurant manager Ahmed kindly greeted us & showed us to our table – we chose to sit upstairs which has more of an authentic feel & ambience to it (including decorative camel!) The tables here are not your usual restaurant tables, but desert style bedouin – lovely & traditional to say the least! The seating upstairs gently reminded me what it was like when I visited Dubai & had an evening in the desert. Due to the seating arrangements, the restaurant (upstairs) isn’t brightly lit, which i thought was quite nice, & especially relaxing. It was also nice in the sense that it wasn’t too formal – it gave the impression that you could sit, enjoy your time & your food, without staff wanting a quick turnover of customers. I personally felt this made a huge difference to the experience, there’s nothing worse than a restaurant wanting to get you in & out as soon as possible, so top marks here for Al Khayma.
Now, on to the food – for our starters, we ordered up 3 plates between us to share, which was more than enough, you’ve got to remember that you will be served bread/dips/olives anyway, so you definitely don’t want to go too mad with starters. We enjoyed a selection which included the halloumi (you can never go wrong with a bit of halloumi!) this was definitely cooked to perfection, it wasn’t rubbery or squeaky, which sometimes it can be if it’s left to go cold, & the halloumi also had a glaze to it, I’m not too sure what it was but it was very yummy! Kibbeh (which are deep fried lamb meatballs), these were lovely & very filling, as well as the Sojuk, which are home made Lebanese sausages – I especially enjoyed these, the meat was lovely & soft, & they had a nice kick to them. All of the starters were served on a bed of salad which was a lovely touch & refreshing if the starters were too hot/spicy. The salad also just gave the food that little bit extra on presentation.
On to the mains – we opted for our own dishes here rather than a platter, as we thought it would be nice to try more traditional food, so we enjoyed the Farnouj mousakhab, which is a whole baby chicken served with a side salad & chips, although I swapped chips for rice. This was absolutely delicious, the chicken is coated in a garlic sauce which was so, so nice! I have to say, the portion here was huge as well, I was defeated, I don’t think I even managed half – I tried! The other main we ordered up was the Tajine which is lamb cubes & vegetables in a smoked sauce – again, this was very tasty, & plentiful. In particular, I liked how this was served up – very traditional. We decided against desserts, as the food was more than enough. We did however enjoy the tea that was served – this was very nice & refreshing after the large meal.
All in all, we really loved our experience here, the restaurant is really lovely & authentic, & gives you a real Middle Eastern feel. I think the biggest selling point has got to be the shisha lounge – this was busy throughout our time visiting, so Al Khayma are definitely doing something right. I would definitely suggest giving this place a visit, even if it does mean going out of your way – the restaurant is alcohol free, so there is no excuse to not drive!
We would like to thank Al Khayma for inviting us along, & in particular a big thank you to Ahmed for going out of his way to make sure everything was perfect for us. We look forward to visiting again!