Lebanese food is some of the best in the world and I was lucky enough to discover the full range of what the country has to offer during my time living there. Drink is considered just as important as the food by many, and so I have included some recommendations here. I’ve got a lot to include in this post so I’ve decided to divide it up into the three sections of fine dining, mid-range and cheap/quick bites – but please note that price doesn’t always equal quality here!! In fact, some of the cheapest meals I had in Lebanon were of the best. For this reason, I’ve also decided to rate each of the restaurants I review, all of these are based in the capital Beirut.
Fine Dining and Upmarket Dining Experiences
Em Sherif – 5/5
If you’re going to Em Sherif, make sure you eat a minimal amount in the day!! I would absolutely recommend this restaurant to anybody visiting Lebanon or trying Lebanese cuisine for the first time. A set price and a set menu, you’ll get to experience about 50 different dishes set across three different courses, a fantastic way to introduce someone to the cuisine and also the culture of sharing dishes across the table rather than having your own individual meal. You’re able to order shisha here and dancing is encouraged as they have a live band to give the restaurant has a great atmosphere but, remember, the Lebanese eat later rather than earlier! It’s a pricey evening but I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Liza – 4/5
Liza is a truly stunning restaurant, located in a traditional Lebanese villa and not too far from Em Sherif. Serving excellent, traditional Lebanese cuisine, the food is of very high quality but a slightly stiffer ambience than the relaxed Em Sherif. I would highly recommend this dining experience!
Abdel Wahab – 3/5
Across the road from Liza, Abdel Wahab is popular amongst the Lebanese and serve very high quality Lebanese food, it’s great for groups in a relaxed atmosphere. However, I would say if your time in Beirut is limited, you’re better off spending your time in one of the more exciting restaurants I’ve mentioned in more traditional and beautiful settings.
Angelina – 2/5
This is actually a French cafe (there is much French influence in Beirut, historically known as the Paris of the Middle East) but I wanted to include it in this section because it certainly isn’t on the cheaper side of things. Located in the beautiful setting of downtown, whether you sit inside or outside your eyes are in for a treat. The inside is decorated with beautiful paintings and you can see the set of fresh pastries to choose from. I’d recommend stopping off here for a drink or pastry to break up your day or if you’ve been walking around all day but that’s about all, particularly as the service isn’t great.
T-Marbouta – 4/5
Hidden off the main street in Hamra, T-Marbouta is a lovely restautant serving traditional Lebanese food at good prices and a relaxed atmosphere. I highly recommend!
Al-Tawlet – 5/5
Al-Tawlet is a very different kind of restaurant, it is only open for lunch times and is great for groups due to its buffet style of serving. However, each day they bring in different chefs to serve a different type of cuisine, it’s a fantastic experience as the food is of very high quality and the restaurant is lovely! I highly recommend trying here.
Swiss Butter – 4/5
If you’re feeling a break from Lebanese food, I highly recommend trying Swiss Butter on Gouraud Street, it’s a similar concept to Entrecote whereby they only have three options on the menu. Choose from steak, chicken or salmon, all are served with the same sauce, fries, bread and salad. It’s a really delicious, quick and easy meal which doesn’t require too much decision making!
Vinifest 2018 – 5/5
Speaking of steak, I wanted to include this experience here as the Lebanese love their wine! They produce many award wining wines and I took this picture at the Ksara stand at the 2018 Vinifest. It’s a wine festival where live music is played and you get to go around all the different wine companies tasting their best wines. There are also food stands where you can get meats and cheeses to eat with your wine… and even try taste chocolate champagne! It’s a really great experience and fantastic way to introduce yourself to Lebanese wine, my favourite is the Ksara Sunset!
La Pizzeria – 4/5
Also based on Gouraud Street, La Pizzeria offer a large selection of delicious hand made fresh pizzas, but they are pretty pricey!
Enab – 3/5
The setting of this restaurant is very sweet and pretty, with a large outside area at the back which is great for summer evenings. They serve traditional Lebanese food and do a great mint lemonade as shown above! It’s a relaxed atmosphere but I would say there is better Lebanese food to be had at the other restaurants I’ve mentioned!
Samakati – 5/5
I absolutely love this little restaurant! Designed in a really cute sea-side style, this seafood restaurant is hard to beat. The balance of the flavours in the food were perfect and I cannot recommend their food enough. Their spicy potatoes are incredible! We came back here many times and the quality of the restaurant is clearly catching on as they are expanding across Beirut.
Cheap & Quick Bites
Zaatar wa Zeit – 5/5
I was absolutely obsessed with this restaurant whilst in Beirut. It’s like a McDonalds in terms of the speed of food delivery but it’s menu is all easy Lebanese cuisine including some of the best manaqeesh. I honestly can’t recommend this restaurant enough, plus it’s all super cheap prices!!
Restaurant Soussi – 5/5
Restaurant Soussi is actually a breakfast restaurant and is only open for the morning, closing around 2pm. The food is all traditional and of very highly quality – the restaurant was actually voted as the best breakfast in the world by CNN, only you wouldn’t think it to look at, it’s a tiny little restaurant with plastic tables and chairs but it gives a great authentic feel and it’s refreshing to see somewhere fantastic that has kept to its traditional roots rather than gentrifying. You can learn more about the restaurant and it’s owner in Nigel Slater‘s Lebanon edition of his series ‘Nigel Slater’s Middle East’.
Barbar – 4/5
Offering top quality fresh falafel, it’s definitely worth dropping by this takeaway restaurant for a falafel sandwich if you’re in Hamra. Especially after a night out!
Cafe Em Nazih – 4/5
Attached to the Saifi insitute and hostel, this cafe is very popular amongst both tourists and locals. The main kitchen produces a variety of Lebanese cuisine and an ever-changing daily dish, all at very cheap prices. The manaqeesh is all made freshly in front of you, as seen in the picture above!
Al-Salam Sweets (Helwayat Salam) – 5/5
This little shop also features in Nigel Slater‘s programme and is easily the best ice cream I have ever had. The shop is teeny and is very difficult to find – luckily one day we managed to stumble across it whilst walking home, but when you are nearby you won’t be able to miss the hoards of people enjoying their ice creams outside. And it’s no surprise, it’s easily some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had, but also entirely different to any other ice cream I’ve ever had. You’ll see what I mean when you try it. They have a variety of flavours but the ones I got above were peach, caramelised almond and inside the cone was pistachio. Delicious!
Abed Ghazi Al Hallab – 3/5
If you fancy something a bit sweeter for desert then check out this sweets place where you can get a variety of pastries such as baklava or knafeh (at the top of the picture) a sweet mixture of cheese and syrup – sounds interesting I know, and it divides people, but it I love it!
Beirut has a real mixture of cuisine to offer other than traditional Lebanese. Other than what I have already mentioned in this post, there are many high quality Armenian restaurants such as Mayrig, which is a great restaurant for groups with really high quality food. I also noticed that Japanese culture is really popular in Beirut, so expect to find many sushi restaurants!